Tellus Packaging Study

Prepared by:
Tellus Institute

Prepared for:
The Council of State Governments,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy

Financial analysis: ---
Environmental impact analysis:
Waste management/P2:
Environmental cost listing/database: ---
Cost estimation: ---
Alternative product/process comparison:

Assessment of the impacts of production and disposal of packaging and public policy measures to alter its mix.

Development/publication date and updates:
May 1992. No updates

Public availability:

Purpose and current use:
Analysis of all major packaging materials. Tellus uses the system for their LCA and other environmental policy work. Tellus has sold a number of copies of the study to industry, universities, non-profits, and government organizations be used for various purposes, including support for policy decisions and frameworks.

Cost information:
The complete study is available at a price of $295 for non-profit organizations, and $495 for for-profit organizations. The executive summary is available for $35 and $55 for non-profit and for-profit organizations, respectively.

Contents and system requirements:
Detailed analysis of all major packaging materials, including an evaluation of the relative importance of different environmental impacts and pollution control costs. Case studies of packages.

Summary of methodology

The Tellus approach uses the marginal cost of pollution control for regulated and non-regulated pollutants to evaluate the environmental cost of production associated with twenty packaging materials, including several comparisons of virgin and recycled streams.

Tellus works within the SETAC/EPA LCA framework-consisting of a life-cycle inventory, impact assessment, and improvement assessment. The Tellus inventory report on packaging material production processes coincides with the inventory component of life-cycle analysis. Ranking health effects and pricing them are part of the life-cycle impact assessment.

Life-cycle stages covered

Raw material acquisition
Manufacturing stage
Use/reuse/maintenance ---
Recycle/waste management

The Tellus study evaluates environmental impacts/costs for a portion of the life cycle and includes information on

The Tellus study omitted the following life-cycle stages:

Type of costs considered

Potentially hidden
Contingent ---

The costs considered are environmental costs of production, conventional (monetary) costs of disposal, and environmental costs of disposal.

Environmental costs of production

Conventional costs of disposal

Environmental costs of disposal

-For landfills, the leachate pollutants per ton of landfilled waste were estimated and these were added to the waste stream components based on the quantities and chemical composition of wastes.

-For incinerators, the air pollutants and ash produced by burning a ton of waste were estimated and these were added to the waste stream components based on the quantities and chemical composition of wastes.

-For recycling, the air pollutants associated with recycling a ton of recycled waste were estimated and these were added to the waste stream components based on the quantities of waste. One published study was used that measured ambient air pollution levels at a fairly small recycling facility. The reason why only one data set was used was the paucity of published data on recycling facility emissions.

-For landfilling, incineration and recycling, the air pollutants associated with collecting a ton of waste were estimated, and these were added to the waste stream components based on the quantities and volumes of wastes.

Method of cost estimation

Full cost of packaging production and disposal =

Generation of financial indicators

Net present value (NPV) ---
Payback period ---
Internal rate of return (IRR) ---
Benefits cost ratio ---
Other ---


Most applicable aspects of the Tellus study are the approaches used to place monetary values on environmental impacts. Although only production and disposal stages are considered by Tellus, the use of social WTP (as given by the MCPC) as a proxy for pollutant prices may be built upon, refined, and/or extended to all life-cycle stages.


The conventional costs of packaging production are not taken into account. All the life-cycle stages are not included in the analysis.

Basis for evaluation:
The information provided here is based on a profile of the tool presented in Weitz et al. (1994). Subsequent reviews were done by incorporating updated product information through telephone communication with Tellus in May 1995.

Contact information:
Tellus Institute
11 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116

Karen Shapiro
Brian Zuckerman

617-266-8303 (FAX)

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