Life cycle assessment of hard disk retail packaging

CASE STUDY | A manufacturer of hard disk drives requested PRé to conduct an ISO 14044 life cycle assessment of the retail packaging of its products. This helped them understand and communicate the environmental impacts of packaging and transport.

October 09, 2013

Life Cycle Assessment of Hard Disk Retail Packaging



A manufacturer of computer hard disk drives wanted to complete a third party, critically reviewed cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) of its product’s retail packaging in accordance with ISO 14044. The manufacturer wanted to understand the environmental impacts of the packaging system and communicate these results externally to its retail customers. Eleven total individual product packaging configurations were studied, spanning three geographic regions; Americas (AMER), Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Asia and Pacific (APAC).



The hard disk drive manufacturer supplied the product bill of materials (BOMs) and transportation distances from the supplier to assembly facilities. As the manufacturer had not collected primary data from its direct suppliers, secondary sources and estimates were used to model raw material production, modes of transport and distances from assembly facilities to end users, and end-of-life disposal practices. Primary packaging (including retail box, labels, product tray, etc.) and secondary packaging (carton and pallet) were examined separately and broken down into three main phases.



Transportation was found to be the most impactful process for the products distributed to Europe and America. These products are transported from the assembly location to the end users by air, ocean, and truck. Specifically, for these two regions, air transport is the dominant contributor to almost all impact categories examined, while ocean transport is not a significant contributor. Additionally, the transportation impacts associated with the secondary packaging are larger than those of the primary packaging for products, due to the larger mass of the secondary packaging. The products distributed in the Asia region are only transported a short distance by truck; therefore, the transportation impacts are minimal and the production of the plastic and corrugate materials are the most impactful processes. The end-of-life phase has minimal environmental impact for both primary and secondary packaging, but is more apparent in the Asian region due to lower recycling rates in this region.



Working with PRé, the hard disc drive manufacturer discovered the following value-driven benefits:

  • Insight into the most impactful stages and processes, including the importance of the mode of transportation used in distribution
  • Understanding of the environmental impacts of the systems in use today, thereby enabling product packaging designers to incorporate life cycle thinking into the design of future packaging systems


Please contact our experts to learn more about this project.



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Laura Golsteijn
Laura Golsteijn
'Everyone can contribute. Every day.'