26 Apr 2017

Sustainability of plant trays analysed

Multi-use plant tray most sustainable choice

Royal FloraHolland is a cooperative of breeders and growers of plants and cut flowers. More than 90% of the trade in cut flowers and plants in the Netherlands goes via Royal FloraHolland. The plants are transported in various types of plant trays. To provide the sector with information about the sustainability of these trays, Royal FloraHolland commissioned a study by Blonk Consultants. The environmental performance of the trays was identified in a life cycle assessment (LCA) covering the whole supply chain.

Insight into environmental performance

At the moment most of the plant trays used in the ornamental plant sector are one time use (disposable) trays. The decision on which tray to use is made by the individual breeders and traders, but until now they have had little information about the environmental performance of the different trays. Royal FloraHolland wanted to know more about their environmental performance to give its supply chain partners a basis on which to make a sustainable choice. Blonk Consultants analysed the environmental performance of various different plant trays in an LCA. This type of study, carried out to international standards, provides insights into the environmental performance over the whole life cycle of the product, from production to use, disposal and waste treatment. The study clearly revealed how the different trays perform on environmental aspects such as climate change and water use, as well as the potential for improvement.

Comparison of four trays

The study compared 4 types of tray: 2 single-use trays (Normpack® 236 and Normpack® 306) and 2 multi-use trays (FC 736 and Floratino FC 746). The Normpack® 236 and FC736 are comparable in size and capacity, as are the Normpack® 306 and Floratino FC746. Royal FloraHolland exports many plants and so the study also compared 4 markets: Berlin (Germany), Paris (France), London (UK) and Arnhem (Netherlands). This means that different transport distances were compared. The same goes for the waste treatment of the one time use trays, which can differ between markets, such as recycling, incineration and landfill. The study examined 10 different environmental aspects (based on ReCiPe">ReCiPe), including climate change, acidification, water use, depletion of fossil fuel resources and fine particulate emissions.

Multi-use plant trays have the best environmental performance

The study shows that multi-use trays perform better on the selected environmental aspects. If we zoom in on the four different types of tray, we see that the environmental impact of the single-use trays is caused mostly by the production of the material and the waste treatment process (incineration of plastic). The impact of the Floratino FC 746 multi-use tray is caused by transport and cleaning; the impact of the Floratino FC 736 is caused primarily by transport (this tray is not cleaned).

Next steps by Royal FloraHolland

The study gives Royal FloraHolland a basis for follow-up actions. Together with supply chain partners and stakeholders they will start by changing their use of packaging to make it as sustainable as possible. In addition, Royal FloraHolland is offering its supply chain partners information that will help them to make their own activities more sustainable.

More information

If you want to know more about this study or are interested in knowing more about
a life cycle assessment of your products, please contact Jasper Scholten