Case Study: Increasing Recycled Content in Secondary Packaging
Guayakí’s vision holds that yerba mate culture will power their Market Driven Regeneration™ business model to regenerate ecosystems and create vibrant communities. Yerba mate is a holly plant native to South America with the caffeine strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate. Guayakí sells a wide range of products from loose leaf yerba mate and mate bags, mate gourds and bombillas (drinking apparatus) to ready-to-drink beverages made from yerba mate in a wide variety of flavors. Guayakí focuses on the whole product life cycle and incorporates regeneration in each step, including their packaging. 95% of their packaging is recyclable or compostable including a home-compostable bag.
Exploring Post-Consumer Recycled Content in Packaging
For this case study, Guayakí wanted to evaluate the environmental impact of adding more recycled content into their aluminum can secondary packaging. Specifically, they were considering increasing the post-consumer recycled (PCR) content of the corrugated tray holding 12 cans during shipping and the surrounding plastic wrap.
To quantify the environmental benefits, Gretchen Grani, Regeneration and Sustainability Lead for Guayaki, initially approached the Climate Collaborative (CC). The Climate Collaborative represents a cohort of natural products industry companies working to reverse climate change through climate action commitments in nine areas, including packaging. The Climate Collaborative has partnered with Trayak to aid companies in developing sustainable packaging choices by quickly benchmarking existing packaging and developing alternatives. The project? Conduct a Screening Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that compares the impacts of the original 40% recycled content corrugated tray and 0% recycled content polypropylene wrap versus the proposed 100% recycled content corrugated tray and 50% recycled content polypropylene wrap.
All three organizations worked together to collect packaging system information (materials, masses, conversion processes, etc.) and perform the analysis with Trayak’s LCA tool, EcoImpact-COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment).
Impacts of PCR Content in Secondary Packaging
When comparing the original secondary packaging design with the proposed changes to its recycled content, it is clear there are substantial environmental benefits.
Fossil Fuel Use Reduction:
The fossil fuel consumption of secondary packaging could be reduced by 24%. If PCR content was incorporated in the secondary packages to deliver the annual volume of 36 million Guayakí cans, fossil fuel consumption would be reduced by about 1.95 million MJ—equivalent to nearly 319 barrels of oil!
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction:
Due to the reduction of virgin material use, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 13% when using recycled content in the plastic wrap and the corrugated tray.
Greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 68.8 tons of CO2 eq annually if recycled content is incorporated into the secondary packages. This is the same amount of carbon that is sequestered by nearly 1,782 tree seedlings grown for 10 years!
Water Use Reduction:
Water consumption could be reduced by 13%. Incorporating the recycled content into the secondary packages required to transport 36 million cans of Yerba Mate would save nearly 5.4 million gallons of water. The water saved is enough for 863 people to shower every day for an entire year!
Key Takeaways from Incorporating PCR Content
Guayakí engaged in this case study because of their commitment to reduce their climate impact. They had many questions about where to begin, and what would be the most impactful packaging change with minimal supply chain disruption to their business. As a part of this engagement, different packaging change scenarios were simulated.
Ultimately, it was found that incorporating recycled content into Guayaki’s secondary packaging would be both feasible and provide meaningful environmental benefit. Simulating these benefits with LCA during conceptual phases allowed Guayakí to confirm and quantify the environmental benefits before making physical packaging changes.
If you are interested in this type of engagement, please reach out to the Climate Collaborative or Trayak today!