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LCA helps Kraft measure, improve environmental impacts of packaging

Proprietary Eco-Calculator helps Kraft’s packaging designers create more efficient, sustainable solutions for products, such as the Kraft YES Pack and the Tassimo T Disk.

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Most people have heard the saying, “You can't improve what you don’t measure.” But measurement can be complex and time-consuming, especially when it comes to figuring out how to reduce environmental impacts. This is why Kraft Foods says it is using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to help it make the right changes and get the best results for a range of its global products. For Kraft, LCA measures the footprint of what goes into making a product, from farm to fork and beyond. 

"Life-cycle assessment is an important part of our sustainability journey," says Roger Zellner, sustainability director for research, development, and quality. "It gives us a competitive advantage, as we now have more insight into how to reduce our products' footprints, find efficiencies, and validate and explain those benefits to customers and consumers. Together, we're focusing and working smarter and communicating better, which is good for the environment, people, and our business."

The latest LCA work builds on the multiyear footprinting project Kraft Foods recently used to map its impact on climate change, land, and water use. Today, Kraft says, employees around the world are using life-cycle thinking to help uncover ways to eliminate waste in manufacturing. This can reduce the amount of raw materials, such as agricultural commodities, used at the beginning of the supply chain. LCA also can help measure how product and packaging innovations improve on previous designs, and provide a common system to measure and explain those benefits.

As an example, Kraft cites the YES Pack. In the U.S., the Kraft YES Pack salad dressing team used LCA to confirm that their design has a reduced environmental impact, using 60% less plastic packaging than the previous container. In the U.K., the Kenco coffee team used LCA to confirm its new Eco-Refill package delivered a 70% savings in the packaging's carbon impact footprint compared to its glass counterpart. And in Europe, the Tassimo single-serve beverage team’s LCA showed they could reduce the carbon footprint of each T Disc beverage ingredient package by about 20% when upcycling them with partner TerraCycle and diverting them from landfills.

At the heart of Kraft Foods' reductions in packaging is its Eco-Calculator™. This proprietary tool—based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and packaging industry groups—helps Kraft’s packaging designers create more efficient, sustainable solutions, the company says. The Eco-Calculator figures the percentage of post-consumer recycled material in a given package design, along with the amount of energy and carbon dioxide emissions required to create the package. It also tells packaging designers how efficiently they're using materials and how well their designs will fit a product's physical dimensions. The tool is used along with other business practices, like economic assessments and ability to manufacture, before deciding on a final design.

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