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Single Use vs Reuse: Analysing the impacts

We’re seeing the emergence of misleading content that promotes single use as squeaky clean, and refill as the enemy.

It’s not unusual to see this kind of material published by single use packaging producers. The crucial thing for non-experts is to arm themselves with the right questions to ensure they are getting the full picture.

Take a look at this example – let us know what you think.

Are you getting the full picture?

Many analyses only publish select metrics like volume of material and carbon. Many refillable packs need to be washed, yet we see water absent in the published data in many LCA studies.

We know some big businesses are establishing their own methodologies in the absence of industry guidance. Reporting guidance is one area of policy we expect to develop over the next few years.

The impacts of dishwashing – a hidden cost

– Dishwashing has variable environmental impacts, depending on the amount of water and cleaning chemicals used and heat energy settings. More recently, the potential problem with microplastics has come to light, throwing a spanner in the works for projects where reusable plastic comes out trumps for low carbon.


– During two recent projects, we had an unsatisfactory response from large raw material producers who could not confirm whether the material they promoted as dishwasher-safe could withstand the recurring heat and chemicals of an industrial dishwashing unit.

– Clients in the events sector have told us that some of the ‘number 7’ hard-to recycle plastics don’t stand up to the rigour of dishwashing, losing aesthetic appeal much faster than claimed. This results in higher loss rates and higher environmental impacts. The potential for microplastics, as a result of this undefined ‘life’, needs to be considered.

As brands look for ways to decouple their growth from the use of valuable resources and the high carbon footprint that single use drives, carbon is a critical KPI for most businesses when comparing the impacts of single use and reuse. We also know that weight-based metrics are being questioned for their relevance because measuring weight does not incentivise using less.

Having an independently verified analysis is the key to achieving a non-biased pathway toward reusable.

Many analyses only publish select metrics like volume of material and carbon. Refillable packs need to be washed, yet we see water absent in the published data in many LCA studies. ​

Case Studies

A multinational healthcare brand​

  • We supported the design team to develop the concepts
  • We used our Impact Analysis Metrics to give a realistic use case and to define clear recommendations for the ‘life’ of the pack, system, and sanitisation
  • Our work has been used to set parameters for the pilot and 2023 rollout, which, if successful, will help the brand reduce its CO2 eq footprint by 1.8 tonnes and remove 2.5 tonnes of plastic (and associated EPR fees) from its business

A global beverage brand​

We calculated the Impact Analysis Metrics for a commercial business case that demonstrated the potential savings the brand could achieve for every 1 million serves:


  • Reduction of 1.3 tonnes of CO2 eq (7.5%)
  • Reduction of water use by 17,000 litres (18%)
  • Commercial savings of 70%
  • Removal of 6 tonnes of single-use material from the system


The strategy we delivered was rolled out across our client’s European and global promotional events.​

Root Impact Analysis

Root is one of Europe’s leading sustainable consultancies, advising brands on how to use less and transition to becoming a regenerative, inclusive and kinder organisation to people and our planet. Our impact analysis can help you compare the impacts of single-use vs reuse.​

To talk about your requirements please get in touch by email at or complete the enquiry form​