Tackling the Relevance of Packaging in Life Cycle Assessment of Virgin Olive Oil and the Environmental Consequences of Regulation


Production and consumption of olive oil is very important in Europe, being this product a basic element in the Mediterranean diet since long ago. The project objective is two-fold: a study of the contribution of virgin olive oils (VOOs) usual packaging to the whole life cycle of the product and a study of the environmental consequences of the Spanish Government regulation on VOO packaging. A life cycle assessment (LCA) according to ISO 14044 has been performed using the CML methodology for the impact assessment. The results show that the packaging influence varies from 2 to 300%, depending on the impact category and type of packaging (glass, tin or polyethylene terephtalate). Glass, which is related to higher quality perception by consumers, was found to be the most influencing material (due to its weight); however, this impact may be fairly reduced by applying ecodesign strategies (such as weight reduction and recycled-glass percentage increase). A new Spanish regulation on the mandatory use of non-refillable oilers in HORECA establishments (hotels, restaurants and caterings) aims to provide more quality assurance and better information to consumers; however, it was also found to mean a 74% increase in greenhouse gases emissions. This regulation was deeply discussed at European level and its application was withdraw due to consumers rejection, except for Spain. The findings of the present case study show that LCA and ecodesign should be important tools to be promoted and applied in policy making to reduce non-desirable consequences of regulation.

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    There is an important ongoing LCA project in Spain to thoroughly study the end of life of packaging: the ARIADNA project. At the moment of writing this paper, its methodological decisions, data used and results have not been made public, so background data has been taken from literature and GaBi Database.

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    CNAE, Numerical Code of Economic Activity.


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No specific funding has been received to perform the present study. We are very grateful to the 20 restaurants which have participated in data collection filling in inventory questionnaires. We are responsible for the choice and presentation of information contained in this paper, as well as for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit this Organization.

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Correspondence to Rita Puig.

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Navarro, A., Puig, R., Martí, E. et al. Tackling the Relevance of Packaging in Life Cycle Assessment of Virgin Olive Oil and the Environmental Consequences of Regulation. Environmental Management 62, 277–294 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-018-1021-x

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  • Carbon footprint
  • Ecodesign
  • Policy making
  • Glass
  • Tin and polyethylene terephtalate