Waterbox Carton Held Against the Backdrop of a Sunlit Pool

Food Packaging Ranked by Carbon Footprint: Here are some Statistics

In the contemporary discourse about environmental sustainability, the carbon footprint of various food packaging options has become a focal point. This article explores the carbon footprint of different types of packaging, providing a clearer understanding of their environmental impacts. From carton water packaging to glass bottles and aluminium cans, each has its unique carbon footprint, and understanding these differences is key to making more sustainable choices.

Carton/Box Packaging: The Leader in Low Carbon Footprint Packaging

According to recent studies, carton packaging, including boxed water and carton water, boasts the lowest overall carbon footprint among common packaging types. The carbon emission for carton packaging ranges from 90–111kg CO2e/1000 liters per beverage. This efficiency is attributed to several factors.

Firstly, the weight factor plays a significant role. Tetra Paks and similar carton packaging are lighter than glass, aluminium, and plastic counterparts. This reduced weight means lower energy consumption during both production and transportation. Additionally, the box-like shape of cartons, such as box water bottles and boxed spring water, allows for more efficient packing and transportation. Up to 33% more Tetra Pak cartons can be transported in the same space compared to other types of packaging. This efficiency significantly reduces carbon emissions associated with transportation.

Glass Bottles: High Carbon Footprint

At the other end of the spectrum, glass bottles have the highest carbon footprint, with emissions ranging from 150–761kg CO2e per 1,000 litres. The wide range in these figures can be attributed to various factors, including production methods and transportation distances. The production process of glass is energy-intensive, requiring high temperatures to melt and mould. Furthermore, the heavy weight of glass bottles adds to the carbon footprint during transportation.

Aluminium and Steel Cans

Canned water and beverages packaged in aluminium and steel cans also have a notable carbon footprint. While aluminium cans are lighter than glass, their production is energy-intensive, primarily due to the process of extracting and processing bauxite into aluminium. However, aluminium cans are highly recyclable, which can mitigate their overall environmental impact over their lifecycle.

Steel cans, often used for canned food products, have a similar environmental profile. The energy required for steel production is significant, but like aluminium, steel is highly recyclable, which can help offset its initial carbon footprint.

Plastic Bottles

While lighter than glass and easier to transport, the production of plastic, especially single-use plastics, contributes to environmental degradation, not just in terms of carbon emissions but also through pollution and waste management challenges. The recyclability of plastics varies, with many plastics not being recycled effectively, further adding to their environmental impact.

Comparative Analysis of Packaging Types

When compared side by side, the differences in carbon footprints are stark. Carton packaging, such as boxed spring water or water in a box, stands out for its low environmental impact, primarily due to its efficient transportation and production process. Glass, while offering benefits in terms of recyclability and perceived purity, has a significantly higher carbon footprint due to its weight and production process. Aluminium and steel offer a middle ground, with their recyclability being a key factor in mitigating their environmental impacts.

The Role of Consumer Choice

Consumer choice plays a critical role in influencing the packaging industry. As awareness of environmental issues increases, consumers are increasingly opting for products with lower carbon footprints, such as boxed water or carton water. This shift in consumer preferences is driving more brands to consider the environmental impact of their packaging choices and look for more sustainable options.

Sustainable Innovations in Packaging

In response to growing environmental concerns, many companies are innovating in the realm of sustainable packaging. This includes the development of plant-based packaging materials, improvements in recycling technologies, and the adoption of more energy-efficient production processes. These innovations are crucial for reducing the overall carbon footprint of packaged goods.

The Future of Packaging

Looking to the future, the trend is clear: sustainability will continue to drive innovation in food and beverage packaging. With the growing emphasis on reducing carbon emissions, packaging options like boxed water and plant-based containers are likely to become more prevalent. Additionally, advancements in recycling technology and the development of new, more sustainable materials will play a critical role in shaping the future of packaging.


The carbon footprint of various food packaging options presents a complex but crucial aspect of environmental sustainability. Carton packaging, with its lower carbon emissions, stands out as a more sustainable choice, particularly in comparison to glass bottles. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, their choices can drive a significant shift towards more sustainable packaging options, ultimately contributing to a reduction in global carbon emissions. The food and beverage industry, including water brands, plays a pivotal role in this shift, underscoring the importance of continued innovation and responsible production practices in the journey towards sustainability.

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