Food Industry 3

CHAIR: Mike Levy
13:30 Bobby RenzDeanna LizasNikita PavlenkoChristopher EvansBikash Acharya and Claire Boland

Analysis of the Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emission Implications of Distributing and Refrigerating Beverages

ABSTRACT. The environmental implications of upstream production and end-of-life management of beverage containers is fairly well-understood in the literature. However, less attention has been dedicated to investigating use-phase impacts from beverage containers. The authors sought to examine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption during the use phase of beverage packaging products to determine differences between different use-phase scenarios and identify opportunities to decrease use-phase emissions in the beverage industry. In particular, the study focused on the benefits of packaging space efficiency (i.e., “cube efficiency”) in transportation and refrigeration at distribution. The boundaries of this study include only the energy and GHG emission impacts associated with the use phase of a beverage container through retail purchase, including distribution from container filling facilities to retailers and refrigeration at retail. The analysis assumes that beverages are not the sole reason for a grocery store visit and therefore consumer storage and transport are outside the scope of this study. The functional unit is defined as 1 liter of beverage delivered to the consumer at a retail location. Through a literature review and discussions with industry stakeholders, we developed a simplified model of average distribution and retail practices for aluminum cans sold in supermarkets, small markets/convenience stores, and restaurants in the United States. The transportation analysis assumes a mix of small, medium, and large delivery vehicles using an industry-average fuel mix for freight vehicles, excluding biotic carbon emissions from biofuels. The calculations include a sensitivity analysis to determine the extent to which different factors (i.e., vehicle size, transport distance) influence the per-unit emissions. For an example case involving transport of a 355 mL aluminium soft drink can by large truck to a convenience store, transportation emissions after bottling are estimated to be 49 g CO2e per liter of soft drink (gCO2e/L) and refrigeration emissions are estimated to be 72 gCO2e/L. The total use-phase emissions of 129 gCO2e/L for an aluminium soft drink can are estimated to comprise roughly 25-27% of the total cradle-to-grave GHG emissions from an aluminium can, depending on the recycling assumption. This is a substantial fraction of life-cycle impacts and the results of this analysis demonstrate that space efficiency in both transportation after bottling and refrigeration at distribution is an instrumental driver in the use-phase energy consumption and GHG emissions. These preliminary results add further insight into GHG emissions from the often overlooked use phase of the beverage container life-cycle. This study highlights opportunities to increase the sustainability of the beverage supply chain by increasing efficiencies during the use-phase of the beverage life cycle.

13:45 Martin Heller and Gregory Keoleian

Demonstration of the Environmental Interplay between Food Waste and Food Packaging via Life Cycle Assessment

ABSTRACT. Food packaging has long served a role in protecting and preserving both perishable and shelf-stable foods, but sustainability efforts aimed at reducing the environmental impact of packaging often overlook this critical role. Food waste – food which is produced but not eaten – can represent a significant fraction of the food life cycle’s overall environmental burden. This presents an important research question: are investments in resources and associated emissions due to increased or improved packaging technologies beneficial from an environmental standpoint if they contribute to reductions in food waste? Using an LCA model developed with specific attention to food waste effects, we will evaluate a number of alternative food packaging scenarios for three cases: fresh beef, fresh and frozen fish, and salad mixes. The functional unit will be a mass of food consumed. While food waste throughout the supply chain will be considered, the differentiation between scenarios will focus on waste during distribution and retail, drawing from empirical data from food retailers and industry representatives. Preliminary results suggest that modified atmosphere packaging of fresh beef leads to net greenhouse gas emission (GHGE) savings due to food waste reductions, when compared to common tray and overwrap packaging. On the other hand, while modified atmosphere bagging of salad mix reduces food waste, it is not sufficient to overcome the GHGE from manufacturing of the packaging. Including water use impacts in the salad mix case further demonstrates the complexity of food waste/food packaging trade-offs. Demonstration of the interplay between packaging and food waste can assist designers in redefining packaging sustainability optimization strategies to include the whole product/package system. The results presented here also highlight the important role that packaging plays in reducing food waste.

14:00 Julie SinistoreChristoph KofflerErin Mullholland and Sebastian Birke

Food carbon fate beyond consumption

ABSTRACT. The treatment of biogenic carbon released from human food products at End-of-Life (EoL) in LCA is a topic that has not been well addressed in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) literature, but it could have measurable impacts on a product’s full life-cycle Global Warming Potential (GWP). Many human food LCAs do consider the consumption phase of food product in terms of the disposal of packaging, amount of wasted food or washing of utensils associated with food, but they do not consider the impacts of the actual consumption, digestion and excretion of the food by humans as part of the EoL. Therefore, the fate of the biogenic carbon stored in the food is not accounted for at EoL (see reference links below). We endeavor to track and quantify the emissions of biogenic carbon (as carbon dioxide or methane) through the full EoL of food products. Based on a variety of recently released studies on the carbon content of the human body and the fate of carbon from wastewater treatment, we were able to discern that approximately 5% of ingested carbon will be released as methane. When combined with the current IPCC characterization factors for methane emissions, this represents roughly 40% of the EoL phase GWP100 and about 65% of the EoL phase’s GWP20. Depending on the GWP from a product’s production and use phase emissions, this could represent a significant contribution to the product’s life cycle GWP. Alternatively, these calculations could demonstrate that the EoL GWP of the product does not significantly change the overall GWP caused by the food product. We will share how this method of including EoL could impact the results of a food LCA on protein sources and other foods (potentially reference our work with a currently confidential client) with the real-world example.

14:15 Katerina Stylianou and Olivier Jolliet

Comparing environmental and nutritional impacts and benefits of food
SPEAKER: Olivier Jolliet / Presentation

ABSTRACT. While there has been considerable effort to understand the environmental impacts of a food or diet, nutritional effects are not usually included in food-related life cycle assessment (LCA). We developed a novel Combined Nutritional and Environmental Life Cycle Assessment framework that evaluates and compares in parallel the environmental and nutritional effects of food items or diets. We applied this framework to assess human health impacts, expressed in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), in two proof of concept case studies. The first one investigated the environmental and nutritional human health effects associated with the addition of one serving of fluid milk to the present American adult diet. The second focuses on the trade-off between production and pesticide residues impacts associated with fruits and vegetables versus nutritional benefits in the context of the overall European food consumption. Epidemiologically-based nutritional impacts and benefits linked to milk intake and fruits and vegetables consumption, such as colorectal cancer and stroke, were compared to selected environmental impacts traditionally considered in LCA (global warming and particulate matter) carried to a human health endpoint. We found that a fluid milk consumption increase by one serving led to an overall health benefit (i.e., avoided burden of disease mainly attributed to nutritional effects from consumption)that exceeded the induced burden primarily associated with environmental emissions from production. For fruits and vegetables, impacts of pesticide residues are small compared to the environmental benefits of fruits and vegetables, suggesting that once proper environmental policy has been implemented to ban the most harmful pesticides, the priority should be to promote fruit and vegetable consumption and provide affordable supply of these to enable the largest consumption possible. This study provides the first quantitative epidemiological-based estimate of the complements and trade-offs between nutritional and environmental human health burden expressed in DALYs, pioneering the infancy of a new approach in LCA. We recommend further testing of this approach for other food items and diets, especially when making recommendations about sustainable diets and food choices.