Packaging is one of the most essential items in the food sector. Plastic packaging is widely used because it is cost-effective, hygienic, versatile, light and can extend shelf life. Despite to its properties and high production, among all single-use packaging products available in the market, plastic packaging is associated with environmental issues during its life cycle due the years needed to degrade its wastes and the release of harmful substances to humans, animals, and the environment. The use of alternative and renewable raw materials that decouple the use of plastic from the consumption of finite resources and the effective boost of reuse, recycling and composting are at the heart of the circular economy model for plastic. Feltwood is a Spanish company that develops technologies to obtain industrial materials that may substitute plastics from vegetal waste. These materials are 100% free of toxins and use no plastics, adhesives or binders. Feltwood materials are 100% vegetable fibers which means that they are 100% biodegradable and compostable.
The objective of this action is to evaluate the environmental benefits, in terms of the carbon footprint (CF) according to the ISO 14067:2018, of an innovative fruit tray made of vegetal fibers from FELTWOOD company by CIRCE Foundation. Thus, the study contemplates the product, manufacturing, use and end-of-life stages of the product according to the Product Category Rules (PCR) for the assessment of the environmental performance of packaging products. Scenario analysis is included to analyse how different options of manufacturing and waste management affects the carbon footprint of the product. Finally, a comparison analysis considering the Feltwood tray and two conventional plastic fruit trays (PET and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)) with the same function has been studied.
The CF of the Feltwood food tray is 115.40 g CO2 eq. This result is obtained based on a reference scenario (baseline) considering the first option of pelletising process, an end-of-life scenario of 17% composting/ 83% landfill and without considering any avoided impact due to the use of the coproduct (fertiliser) from the manufacturing process. The comparison with the CF results of two conventional plastic fruit trays (PET and EPS) of 66.37 and 31.48 g CO2 eq, respectively, confirms that the stages with the highest improvement potential (therefore those with the highest contribution to the CF) are the tray moulding, pelletisation process and final disposal. Besides, after evaluating three different options of manufacturing and waste management, the results of the reference scenario can be improved with a combination of the pelletising process number 2 and the end-of-life scenario in which a 60% of the tray is composted (78.82 g CO2 eq). As stated by Feltwood, to increase the percentage of composting of the tray, there would be indicative signs at the point of sale of the packaged products so that the end-user can be aware of the origin of the trays and how they should dispose of it. Finally, by adding the environmental benefits of the avoidance of fertiliser due to the commercialisation of the coproduct obtained in the pelletising process, this best scenario of the product CF can be reduced to 56.86 g CO2 eq.

This project was awarded by the VIDA project and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement nº 777795. The content of this document represents the view of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility: it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The European Commission and the Agency do not accept responsibility for the use that may be made of the information it contains.