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A life cycle assessment of packaging options for contrast media delivery: comparing polymer bottle vs. glass bottle

Dhaliwal, Harnoor, Browne, Martin, Flanagan, William, Laurin, Lise, Hamilton, Melissa
The international journal of life cycle assessment 2014 v.19 no.12 pp. 1965-1973
X-radiation, air, bottles, databases, ecosystems, electricity, energy, environmental impact, glass, health services, life cycle assessment, manufacturing, packaging, packaging materials, patients, polymers, recycling, uncertainty analysis
PURPOSE: This paper compares environmental impacts of two packaging options for contrast media offered by GE Healthcare: +PLUSPAK™ polymer bottle and traditional glass bottle. The study includes all relevant life cycle stages from manufacturing to use and final disposal of the bottles and includes evaluation of a variety of end-of-life disposal scenarios. The study was performed in accordance with the international standards ISO 14040/14044, and a third-party critical review was conducted. METHODS: The functional unit is defined as the packaging of contrast media required to deliver one dose of 96 mL to a patient for an X-ray procedure. Primary data are from GE Healthcare and its suppliers; secondary data are from the ecoinvent database and the literature. A variety of end-of-life disposal scenarios are explored using both cutoff and market-based allocation. Impact assessment includes human health (midpoint) and ecosystems and resources (end point) categories from ReCiPe (H) and cumulative energy demand. Sensitivity analyses include (1) bottle size, (2) secondary packaging, (3) manufacturing electricity, (4) glass recycled content, (5) scrap rate, (6) distribution transport, (7) contrast media, and (8) choice of impact assessment method. Uncertainty analysis is performed to determine how data quality affects the study conclusions. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: This study indicates that the polymer bottle outperforms the glass bottle in every environmental impact category considered. Bottle components are the most significant contributors, and the vial body has the highest impacts among bottle components for both polymer and glass bottles. The polymer bottle exhibits lower impact in all impact categories considered regardless of the following: end-of-life treatment (using either cutoff or market-based allocation), bottle size, manufacturing electricity grid mix, glass recycled content, scrap rate, contrast media, distribution transport (air vs. ocean), and choice of impact assessment method. Secondary packaging can be a major contributor to impact. The polymer bottle has considerably lower impact compared to the glass bottle for all multi-pack configurations, but the comparison is less clear for single-pack configurations due to significantly higher packaging material used per functional dose, resulting in proportionally higher impacts in all impact categories. CONCLUSIONS: The lower impacts of the polymer bottle for this packaging application can be attributed to lower material and manufacturing impacts, lower distribution impacts, and lower end-of-life disposal impacts. The results of this study suggest that using polymer rather than glass bottles provides a means by which to lower environmental impact of contrast media packaging.