The real footprint of water dispensers

A detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a real eye opener. While catering usually accounts for ten to fifteen percent of total carbon emissions, specific data on different catering components is largely unavailable. Tim Wagendorp, Sustainability Coordinator at Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and
Jo Van Caneghem, who works at the Department of Material Engineering, of Material Engineering, University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium compiled an LCA of drinking water consumption on the Binti film set.


In total, 2,102 liters of drinking water were supplied by water dispensers filled with fifteen-liter
jugs of mineral wate, as well as tap water, in combination with both reusable polypropylene and single-use cardboard cups. The total greenhouse gas emission of drinking water consumption was estimated at 1.2 tons of CO2-eq, which comes down to about two percent of the overall environmental impact of the entire production.


Other possible alternative solutions would have involved using: 0.5-liter plastic mineral water bottles; cooled tap water in combination with reusable plastic cups; or water dispensers with reusable plastic cups. Transporting bottled water, single-use cups, and water dispensers has the largest environmental impact. By using tap water in combination with reusable cups, the CO2 impact could have been reduced by about fifty percent. By choosing plastic bottles and water dispensers, the CO2 impact would have increased by a factor of 2.5x, because the water bottles and dispensers were being filled at a distance of more than 700 km from the set.


Another conclusion can be drawn: Choosing reusable cups is the most eco-friendly choice. Compostable cups degrade too slowly in the industrial composting process, and they can only be discarded as residual waste. They even have a higher carbon impact than single-use plastic cups. Detailed LCA results are not only helping us improve and fine tune our knowledge of sustainable alternatives and specific logistical choices, but they are also aiding the development of the new
Eureca calculator. This is how we measure what we preach and preach what we measure.


Photos: © Niko Tavernise,  Julie Feyaerts / Catholic University Leuven

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