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Lifecycle assessment - a complete package with expanded expertise




Environmental impacts are a constant priority for food producers. First there were food miles, now there are complaints about the amount of packaging being used and what percentage of that is recyclable. Even TVNZ's Fair Go got in on the act recently.

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Although NZ doesn’t have regulations regarding the environmental credentials of food packaging, producers seeking to export often come under increased pressure to prove their environmental conscience. Whether it is to meet the regulations set by specific export markets, or to satisfy the requirements customers stipulate for their supply chain, NZ’s food producers are being forced to look at their packaging to meet a growing demand.

When looking at alternatives to traditional packaging, it is often easy to jump to the conclusion that bioplastics are the automatic saviour. “There are a variety of options out there, a range of materials, but bioplastics are not always a panacea,” says Maria Wake, a newly-appointed associate at Catalyst®.

“Without knowing the lifecycle impact of your products, there’s no way of knowing if investment in bioplastics will be worth it.”

Maria joins Catalyst® following a 13-year career as a research and development engineer focused on bioplastics. Her involvement in the development of a variety of bioplastic solutions means she has in-depth knowledge of the different technologies available, and their advantages and limitations, and can help clients to quickly identify the best options for their own needs.

This expertise adds strength to Catalyst®’s product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) capability. “Packaging is a vital part of this assessment to quantify the environmental impact of a product over its life, and whether there are any areas that can be improved,” she says.

For example, a recently-commissioned Catalyst® LCA found bioplastics could reduce the carbon footprint of a client’s packaging by up to 40%.  This result was based on how the packaging was disposed of and highlighted the importance of recycling and other disposal options.

With Maria on board, Catalyst® can now quickly assess the true impact of a client’s product life cycle and include a comparison of the existing packaging with appropriate bioplastics alternatives. “There are a number of bioplastics options, but they may not be proven and companies could end up wasting time and money on solutions that aren’t viable.”

Maria says the key for packaging decisions is truly understanding the product requirements before leaping to a conclusion that bioplastics will save the day. “Different types of food have different needs and there are different applications too, such as transportation requirements. These all feed in to the technology requirements that will determine the best packaging solution. Sometimes bioplastics won’t be the answer. But without the analysis, companies won’t know if that’s the case.”

Click here for a brief biography for Maria, or here to email her.

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