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Comparison of the environmental impact of a plastic lunchbox vs. aluminium foil

Comparison of the environmental impact of a plastic lunchbox vs. aluminium foil

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This study compares the environmental impact of using a plastic lunchbox to using aluminium foil (tin foil). While it is assumed that the plastic lunchbox is cleaned in a dishwasher and reused, it is assumed that the aluminium foil is discarded after being used once. The report appears to cover the environmental impact of producing the plastic lunchbox and the aluminium foil, their use and their disposal.

It suggests that while aluminium foil is only assumed to be used once before being discarded, its environmental performance is not worse than that of the plastic container. This is attributed to the environmental impact of cleaning the plastic container in a dishwasher and specifically for generating the required electricity. In fact, the study suggests that aluminium foil has a lower impact on the environment in all environmental impact categories considered except one, summer smog.

Link to full report

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The report lacks detail to enable confirmation that the assumptions are robust. However, on the face of it, it would appear that using aluminium foil is the better choice between the two options considered. Unfortunately, the study does not include a comparison with paper based lunch wrap (which might have a lower environmental footprint than aluminium foil).

Report Rating: 2 out of 3

Report Published: November 2013

Country: Germany

Author(s): Frank Wellenreuther, Andrea Drescher

Publisher: ifeu – Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg GmbH

Funder: European Aluminium Foil Association e.V. (EAFA)

Keywords: life cycle analysis, LCA, cradle to grave analysis, environmental footprint, lunch wrap, container, aluminium foil, tin, lunch box, plastic container

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