German EPA backs PET drinks bottles

New study concludes refillable PET the best environmental option for drinks, metal cans worst

The German environment agency is urging consumers to buy drinks in refillable PET plastic packaging and to boycott metal cans and one-way glass bottles after a life-cycle assessment published last week concluded that refillable PET bottles were the best environmental option, followed by cartons and refillable glass, all of which are preferable to metal cans and one-way glass bottles.

The analysis was carried out, in accordance with the international standard 14040, by an economics institute, environment institute and packaging market research organisation. All containers with a market share of at least 5% in 1996 were included. One-way PET, which has gained a market share of over 5% since 1996, is a notable absentee.

The analysis concludes that existing PET refillable systems are best and metal cans and one-way glass worst, all evaluated by their resource use and contribution to global warming and acidification. The study also finds that refillable glass is not better than cartons for drinks, due to the high level of carton recycling. Finally, the agency says that distribution plays a large part in the LCA and recommends that consumers buy locally.

Responding to the study, environment minister Jürgen Trittin repeated his threat of two months ago, (ENDS Daily 14 June) that a mandatory deposit cold be put on "ecologically disadvantageous one-way glass bottles and drinks cans as early as next year". He also suggested that cartons could be included in a revised quota for ecologically advantageous packaging.

Germany's 1991 packaging ordinance, revised in 1998, requires hefty deposits on one-way drinks containers if the proportion of refillable drinks containers falls below 72% for two recorded years. This happened in 1997 (ENDS Daily 22 November 1998), and official figures for 1999 to be published later this year are set to confirm a second breach (ENDS Daily 2 March).

Follow Up:
German environment agency, tel: +44 30 89030. Summary of LCA German environment ministry, tel: +49 30 28550, and press release.

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