The goal of research on a Polibox container

Following the collaboration between the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of the University of Milan and the SDS srl company, the environmental impact of the life cycle of a Polibox isothermal container was assessed. Polibox containers are made from expanded polypropylene (PPE). A non-toxic, light, resistant and 100% recyclable material. They are not disposable products, they can be used to move hot and cold, loose or in Gastronorm food. Its composition, 100% expanded polypropylene, allows not to use other materials (such as metal or plastic parts) in the structure of the container. The Polibox container is particularly used in traditional collective catering systems. The transport of Gastronorm 1/1 from the centralized kitchen to the satellite location requires isothermal containers to guarantee the thermal characteristics of the product. The advantages of Polibox isothermal containers are not only at the structural and performance level of the container but also bring advantages also and above all from a logistical point of view (lighter and more stackable containers). What is life cycle assessment (LCA)? The term Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) identifies the main operational tool of the "Life Cycle Thinking". An objective method to evaluate and quantify energy and environmental loads and the potential impacts associated with a product, process or service, throughout its life cycle, from obtaining raw materials to disposal. At the basis of the LCA methodology there are the ISO 14040: 2006 and ISO 14044: 2006 standards which define the fundamental steps for carrying out the analysis. The ISO standards set the structure of the LCA and define 4 phases for its implementation: Phase 1: Definition of the objective and scope Phase 2: Analysis of the inventory (LCI Life cycle inventory) Phase 3: Impact Assessment (LCIA life cycle impact assessment) Phase 4: Interpretation. The production chain of a Polibox The production chain of an isothermal container is divided into 3 steps: upstream, core and downstream. Upstream means the production process of expanded polypropylene or raw material. All activities that are carried out upstream of the supply chain, before the creation of the isothermal container, its transport and its marketing. The downstream sector, on the other hand, is located downstream of the process. This sector includes the distribution and sale of finished products on the market. All the activities of transport and storage are included in the core activities: reception of the raw material, molding and packaging. 1 Polibox 210 GN 8 has been defined as a functional unit. To define the conditions of use of a Polibox 210 GN 8, the replacement of a common 5 kg isothermal box with a 0.768 kg Polibox 210 GN 8 was hypothesized. The goal is to quantify the savings in terms of weight reduction transported. To evaluate this parameter, some variables have been defined such as: Working days: 230 days / year Kilometers traveled: 10 km per day (5 km full load and 5 km for the return stretch with semi-empty load) Type of vehicle used: EURO 5 commercial vehicle Loading capacity: 48 containers for Gastronorm 1/1 Hot bond in Poliboxes It has been shown that if properly transported in Polibox containers, the meal does not need to be maintained or regenerated. Cold bond in Poliboxes Finally, it has been shown that if transported correctly in Polibox containers, the meal does not require an active vehicle. It saves gas and fuel that would be used in refrigeration. The advantages when using Polibox containers The advantages of using the Polibox container do not lie only in its production phase as the material used is expanded polypropylene. The main advantage is identified in the use phase. The reduced weight (85% less than traditional containers) implies a load reduction equal to 27%, this therefore leads to savings in fuel and consequently a reduction in emissions. Most of the impacts shown in positive percentages (therefore negative for the environment) derive from the extraction phase of the raw material or from the transformation phase for the production of Polibox. The only raw material used for the production of Polibox containers is expanded polypropylene (PPE), a material of petrochemical derivation and the molding phase requires the production of steam at high pressures. The impacts deriving from the molding phase are mainly linked to the gas extraction and combustion phase and to a lesser extent to energy production. Unlike other products on the market, isothermal containers Airtight Polibox are not composed of other raw materials outside of expanded polypropylene. The impact deriving from the disposal of Polibox has a very low incidence when compared with the entire life cycle. It should be noted that the Polibox container, being 100% made of expanded polypropylene, is a 100% recyclable isothermal container. Polibox containers: - weight + performance = - 32% Co2 Choosing 1 kg of PPE saves up to 2.66 kg of CO2 eq. This was assessed on the basis of the study conducted by the University considering the use phase. Two scenarios were compared, one that involves the use of a Polibox and the other that involves the use of a common isothermal container in the 5 years of life provided for these containers