Topic 1 How to choose the best packaging

Various parameters have to be taken into account to define if a packaging solution is better than another:

  • Global packaging (e.g., a big cardboard box containing 10 plastic bags of 100 packages of 2 cotton buds. The global packaging for these 2000 cotton buds is composed of 1cardboard+10 plastic bags+1000 packages)
  • Material of each item of the global packaging (e.g., cardboard, metal, glass, type of plastic, wood, etc.)
  • Weight of each item of the packaging
  • Conservation state of the packaged item. If one of 50 items can not be used due to lack of protection due to the packaging, this increases the packaging impact of these 50 items with the impacts of the production of this item
  • Way the packaging can be effectively reused, recycled, composted, etc. This depends on the human behavior but also on local possibilities.

A way to take all these parameters into consideration to define which is the best solution/packaging to adopt is to conduct Life Cycle Assessment.

For example, if we compare the impacts of various packaging of a wine bottle, the incidence of the packaging environmental impacts compared to the ones of the wine to be package is of:

  • 6% for bag-in-box (plastic bag containing wine placed in a cardboard box)
  • 16% for multilayer PET (plastic) bottle
  • 84% for the glass bottle

Glass is the worst package for environmental impact as even if glass is recycled, it has to be melted again at 1400°C to become a new bottle.

Bag-in-box is the best package due to the composition of the containers, the lower packaging weight relative incidence and the greater palletizing efficiency.

Nevertheless, if the glass bottle can be refilled several times, and if the refilling place is less than 100km away from the place where the bottle is used, the glass bottle incidence drops to the bag-in-box value. Refilling is a great option for any packaging (including plastic) as soon as the refilling place is not far away.

Here is another example focusing on the GHG emissions from Coca-Cola drinks, depending on the way they are packaged:

GHG emission/package

GHG emission/330ml drink

330 ml can



330 ml glass bottle



2l PET (plastic) bottle



Source: Ecores (2021) – from Coca-cola data.

If you want to drink only 330ml and you know that greater quantity will be spoiled as not drunk, can is the best choice. But if you are sure that the whole 2l bottle will be drunk by your customers, its twice better to propose drinks coming from a large plastic bottle. This can also be more interesting from an economical point of view.

These data compare various types of packaging and content sizes. It does not include the possibility to reduce environmental impact through reuse thanks to Coca Cola’s deposit system for example.

Tips & tricks

With several factors to be considered for the packaging, it can be challenging to define which is the best solution to implement.

Always keep in mind:

▪Avoid unnecessary packaging;

▪Educate and challenge your providers;

▪Prefer a large package size to a smaller one unless it leads to product spoilage;

▪The more heavy the packaging is the more impactful, especially for long distance transpiration;

▪Packagings that are reusable are better than the ones recyclable or compostable, and definitely more beneficial than “single-used and thrown-away” solutions, but ONLY IF these solutions are indeed reused, recycled or composted.