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Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool (PIQET)


Packaging plays a critical role in our modern lifestyle. Packaging contains and protects products, provides convenience to consumers and aids in marketing. However, these are also sources of major environmental impacts. Globally, this issue is dealt either on a volantary basis or by mandatory regulations. In Australia, the National Packaging Covenant (NPC) is the voluntary component of the national co-regulatory approach between government and industry to the life cycle management of packaging throughout the supply chain. The National Packaging Covenant (NPC) includes key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets that require business in all industry sectors to increase their commitment to reducing the environmental impact of packaging. In addition, Australia’s Environmental Code of Practice for Packaging (ECoPP) provides guidance on the role and importance of eco-design within the packaging supply chain and NPC signatories are required to demonstrate the application of this code in their packaging design processes.

SPA identified gaps relating to the knowledge, selection, design and use of sustainable packaging materials and the need for credible, business-ready tools to enable packaging environmental decision making. To address this, SPA in partnership with industry, initiated a project to develop PIQET – the Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool.

Research objective

The purpose of research and development of PIQET is to provide the packaging supply chain a quick and credible environmental assessment tool which will assist them in making decisions on packaging development and innovation strategies. This includes selecting materials for packaging re-design or packaging innovation, and specifying packaging for procurement of incoming goods. PIQET is web-based and considers all levels of packaging with an emphasis on environmental factors. Through direct and up to date data links with industry practices and performances, PIQET will enable identification of opportunities for environmental impact improvement and support NPC Action Plans and the ECoPP.

Applications and Benefits

  • Assessment of the environmental impact of different packaging formats and scenario analysis;
  • Evaluation and comparison of new or existing packaging systems and materials i.e. easy exploration of improvement options;
  • Identification at an early development stage of any environmental issues;
  • For integrating environmental decision-making into the packaging design process;
  • Measurement and reporting of environmental performance to internal and external stakeholders particularly customers and regulators;
  • Benchmarking of packaging performance over time;
  • Setting targets, standards and specifications;
  • Identification of priority areas for improvement e.g.
  • Identification of where impacts occur in the life cycle,
  • Identification of which packaging components or systems (e.g. the retail unit, merchandising unit, traded unit) have the highest impacts;
  • Evaluating the effect of recyclability and recycling rates on the environmental impact of packaging materials;
  • Due diligence and risk assessment step – especially relevant due to increasing regulatory and market drivers; and
  • Education, awareness building and negotiation tool to facilitate discussions with supply chain partners and other stakeholders.

Life Cycle Stages

PIQET calculates the environmental impacts of packaging systems throughout the packaging life-cycle, from extraction of packaging raw materials through to end of life. The life-cycle steps that PIQET covers are:

  • Packaging material production;
  • Converting materials into packaging components;
  • Transportation of packaging from the packaging manufacturer to food or beverage manufacturer;
  • Filling of the packaging by the food and beverage manufacturer;
  • Transport of the packaged food or beverage product to retailer; and
  • Waste management strategies i.e. recycling or landfill or composting.

The specification of components making up an organisation’s incoming packaging system, packaging manufacture and distribution details of the outgoing product packaging system can be quickly entered in PIQET via drop down menus.

Environmental Indicators

PIQET includes both environmental indicators as well as packaging specific indicators (e.g. product to packaging ratio and recyclability). Some of the indicators reported by PIQET include:

  • Global Warming / Climate Change (kg CO2 eq);
  • Cumulative Energy Demand (MJ LHV);
  • Photochemical Oxidation (kg C2H2 eq);
  • Water Use (kL H20);
  • Solid Waste (kg); and
  • Land Use (HA)

Calculation of Environmental Indicators

PIQET assessment is carried out by a combination of calculations using user-supplied data and embedded and regularly updated LCA data such as that for materials, manufacturing processes and transportation. These calculations also take into account default packaging waste management data. PIQET assessment is reported both in tabular and graphical format.

PIQET can also compare environmental impacts of different packaging scenarios that can be used for the same product. This can either be a comparison of a completely new packaging system with the existing system or it can be material/weight change of a specific level of packaging.


Organisational users include retailers, brand-owners, packaging manufacturers, raw material suppliers and recyclers. Other users include government regulators, policy makers and researchers.

Current status

The PIQET project was initiated in 2002 by SPA and developed momentum and funding support following the establishment of the PIQET Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) in November 2004. The IAC consists of representatives of the sponsoring food brand-owner companies, Sustainability Victoria and the NPC. The IAC meets regularly to provide feedback to the research team. A prototype version was completed in December 2006 and a web-based version is in its final stages of development. The web-based version will be available through subscriptions in mid 2007.

Future developments

SPA has identified a range of future developments to improve PIQET for Australian companies, expand its application beyond food and beyond Australia. Future research will focus on these development areas as well as using PIQET as a research tool to inform strategies for improving packaging sustainability.

Further information

Dr Juin Majumdar, PIQET Product Development Manager, tel: +61 3 9925 9085

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