Due to the serious problem of plastic pollution in aquatic environment, many people reject plastic packaging in favour of glass containers which are considered more sustainable. To avoid misjudgements, the sustainability assessment of packaging alternatives should be carried out with a life cycle thinking approach. In this regard, the study presents a comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of two alternative packaging systems for drinking water: reusable glass bottles and polyethylene (PET) bottles. The case study was performed considering the real data of an Italian mineral water company that bottles and distributes both natural and sparkling water. The environmental impacts of the two packaging systems were estimated with the ReCiPe 2016 (H) evaluation method adopting both midpoint and endpoint approaches. The results showed that the PET bottle is the most sustainable alternative for natural water for many impact categories; while, in the case of sparkling water, the environmental impacts of the two packaging systems are similar and the most environmentally sound solution can vary depending on the impact category. The following are the most significant aspects of the analysis: (1) the number of reuses of a single glass bottle; (2) the distribution distance. Their variation can determine which packaging is the most sustainable. Therefore, a life cycle assessment approach is needed for each specific case.
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