Driving circular solutions4
Since 2015, the global population has grown by roughly 10%5 whilst the global economy has consumed 70% more new materials than the Earth can safely replenish6. Making matters worse, more than 90% of all materials extracted are wasted, with only 8.6% being repurposed in our economy7. This highlights a concerning trend of overconsumption, as we are not only failing to preserve the limited – and often non renewable – resources we rely on, but our traditional “take-make-waste” model8 is also failing to get the most out of them, with resources being extracted, used, and then disposed of. Following this model, exacerbates the detrimental effects of waste and resource mismanagement on human and ecosystem health. The current model must shift to a circular economy, based on three principles set out by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF): eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials (at their highest value) and regenerate nature9. In 2022, the European Union took an important step by publishing a revised proposal for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), which provides an opportunity for the entire packaging industry to promote the development of innovative solutions to reduce the amount of packaging waste and ensure that all packaging is either recyclable or reusable in Europe by 2030.
Why it matters
The global population has grown by 10% since 2015, while the global economy has consumed 70% more new materials than the Earth can replenish. Over 90% of extracted materials are wasted, indicating overconsumption and a “take-make-waste” model that harms human and ecosystem health.
Drive circular solutions by designing recyclable food and beverage packaging, using recycled and renewable materials, and expanding collection and recycling to keep materials in use and out of landfills.
- Design our equipment for food processing and packaging to be maintained, leased, reused, repaired, and upgraded to extend their lifespan
- Design packaging that is attractive to paper recyclers by increasing paper content and by offering effective recycling solutions for the non-fibre component10
- Further drive the collection and recycling of carton packages worldwide by investing up to €40 million11 annually in the next years.
Tetra Pak’s role
We believe that a circular economy should consider not just recycling and reuse, but also the nature and climate impacts of raw materials and manufacturing.
We have set an ambition to improve circularity of our equipment for food processing and packaging by designing them to be maintained, leased, reused, repaired, and upgraded to extend their lifespan.
For packaging, our ambition is to create the ‘world’s most sustainable food package’12, which means creating cartons that are fully made of renewable or recycled materials, that are responsibly sourced, thereby helping to protect and restore our planet’s climate, resources, and biodiversity; contributing towards carbonneutral production and distribution; are convenient and safe, therefore helping to enable a resilient food system; and are fully recyclable. We focus on enabling the use of renewable materials, maximising the value of recycled material, minimising waste, and making sure the package of the future is designed for recycling. In 2022, through both operational and capital expenditures13, we invested nearly €30 million in collection and recycling projects around the world in support of our targets for paper-based carton packages’ collection and recycling. Going forward, we are increasing our contribution to the collection and recycling of food and beverage paper-based carton packages worldwide, investing up to approximately €40 million annually14.
Our progress in 2022
World’s most sustainable food packaging15
We continue to work towards our ambition to develop the world’s most sustainable food packaging: a carton package made of renewable or recycled materials, that are responsibly sourced, therefore helping protect and restore our planet’s climate, resources and biodiversity; contributing towards carbon-neutral production and distribution; convenient and safe, therefore helping to enable a resilient food system; fully recyclable. We are investing €100 million annually over the next five to ten years in the research and development of packages that are made with a simplified material structure to strengthen recyclability and increase renewable content, while never compromising food safety. As part of this, we are looking to raise the share of paper and reduce the amount of fossil-based plastic and aluminium. We are also introducing the use of certified recycled polymers16 in our packaging.
Innovating to increase use of renewable materials
Since 2015, with the launch of the Tetra Rex® plant-based package – conventional plastics made from plant-based oil. We have steadily increased the use of plant-based plastics over fossil-based plastics which contributes to an even lower carbon footprint of our packaging17. We continued this development and sold 24% more packages (8.8 billion)18 and 12% more caps (11.9 billion) made with plant-based plastic in 2022, compared to 2021.
In 2022 Tetra Pak moved to the next level of development – testing a fibre-based barrier to substitute the aluminium foil layer that is a first within food carton packages distributed under ambient conditions. In addition, in collaboration with MAX IV, we have embarked on ground-breaking research towards advancing fibre-based sustainable food packaging. The research aims to uncover fresh insights into the nanostructure of fibre materials, with the first application to optimise the composition of materials used for paper straws, helping to uncover fresh insights into plant-based materials as a basis for future innovations. This is the very first industrial research and development experiment at ForMAX, a brand new research station dedicated to studying materials from the forest, located at the MAX IV Laboratory in Lund, Sweden.
The experiment conducted at ForMAX is a milestone for both academia and industry. The research station is the first of its kind and will facilitate both fundamental and applied industrial research on how new, sustainable materials19 can be used going forward. We are proud to support Tetra Pak in its development of sustainable packaging for the future.
Manager, ForMAX beamline, MAX IV
Replacing virgin polymers with certified recycled polymers We have introduced certified recycled polymers from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) and the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC)20 in our packaging, to support our targets of increased use of recycled materials. Since 2020, two of our production sites in Europe have been certified by RSB to produce packaging material and additional materials with certified recycled polymer. This means that the plastics are made of a mix of recycled and non-recycled materials, with the corresponding mass of recycled materials tracked throughout the Tetra Pak supply chain. This is verified by a third-party auditor according to the RSB Chain of Custody Procedure, which forms part of the RSB Advanced Products certification. In 2021, our packaging material factory and additional materials factory in Mexico were certified by the ISCC PLUS system. In 2022, we have started the ISCC PLUS certification process for a number of our European production sites.
In collaboration with Elvir, a subsidiary of Savencia Fromage & Dairy – a world-leading milk processor – Tetra Pak has become the first carton packaging player in the food and beverage industry to launch a cap using certified recycled polymers. Elle & Vire chose the HeliCap™ 23 cap solution to complement its cream products, which are distributed in Tetra Brik® Aseptic 1L Slim carton packages. This one-step resealable screwcap is manufactured at Tetra Pak’s Châteaubriant plant in Loire-Atlantique, France – one of the sites that has been awarded the RSB Advanced Products certification.
Swiss dairy Emmi launched Tetra Top® carton package with certified recycled polymers for its Emmi’s Good Day Milk Drink. The Tetra Top® 1000 Base carton package is made with recycled polymers manufactured under the RSB chain of custody attribution method.
Tethering caps to prevent litter To help prevent litter and meet the requirements of the EU directive on tethered caps which will come into effect in July 2024, deployment of Tetra Pak® tethered caps started in 2022 with the following customers.
- April 2022: Borrisoleigh Bottling Ltd in Ireland, Cido Grupa in the Baltics, Group Lactalis Spain and LY Company Group in Spain in different product categories – a market first for these geographies.
- September 2022: Coca-Cola Tria Epsilon, Greece, started using Tetra Pak® tethered caps on carton packaging across its juice drink range.
- November 2022: Danone Alpro has become the first plant-based drinks producer to switch from LightCap™ 30 Air cap to the newly released tethered cap LightWing™ 30 cap on Tetra Brik® Aseptic Edge 1000 carton package, with a self-locking hinge. The product is being launched in coffee shops in Germany and the UK, before being rolled out to retailers in several European markets.
As we are accelerating the deployment of tethered caps, in 2022 we released the cap C38 Pro for Tetra Top® carton packages, which is based on a screw opening mechanism and, like other tethered caps, stays attached to the package to help prevent litter.
Learn more about what is next for Tetra Pak here.
1 The research aims to uncover fresh insights into the nanostructure of fibre materials, with the first application to optimise the composition of materials used for paper straws. Source: https://www.tetrapak.com/about-tetra-pak/news-and-events/newsarchive/Tetra-Pak-commences-first-of-itskind-research-into-fibre-based-food-packaging
2 For the reported carton packages collected for recycling we use, where available, official publicly available data from renowned sources such as governmental agency, registered recovery organization, nationwide industry association, NGO etc. reported on a regular basis using a consistent approach.
3 Paper-based carton packages are recyclable where adequate collection, sorting and recycling infrastructures are in place
4 In line with the circular economy definition of Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation. “The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution”. Source: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview
5 From 7.3 billion to 8 billion. Source: Population | United Nations
6 Circularity Gap Report: FIVE YEARS of the Circularity Gap Report (2022). Source: https://www.circularity-gap.world/2022
7 Circularity Gap Report: FIVE YEARS of the Circularity Gap Report (2022). Source: https://www.circularity-gap.world/2022
8 Reference to linear economy as defined by EMF: “An economy in which finite resources are extracted to make products that are used – generally not to their full potential – and then thrown away (‘take-make-waste’)”. Source: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/glossary
9 Ellen MacArthur Foundation. https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview
10 The non-fibre component of carton packages is known as polyAl, which designates the layers of polyolefins and aluminium being used as barrier against oxygen and humidity to protect the food content in aseptic carton packages.
11 Both operational and capital expenditures
12 A carton package made of renewable or recycled materials, that are responsibly sourced, therefore helping protect and restore our planet’s climate, resources and biodiversity; contributing towards carbon-neutral production and distribution; convenient and safe, therefore helping to enable a resilient food system; fully recyclable.
13 Capital expenditures are a company’s major, long-term expenses while operating expenses are a company’s day-to-day expenses. Examples of CapEx include physical assets, such as buildings, equipment, machinery, and vehicles. Examples of OpEx include employee salaries, rent, utilities, and property taxes. Source: https://www.investopedia.com/
14 Both operational and capital expenditures
15 A carton package made of renewable or recycled materials, that are responsibly sourced, therefore helping protect and restore our planet’s climate, resources and biodiversity; contributing towards carbon-neutral production and distribution; convenient and safe, therefore helping to enable a resilient food system; fully recyclable.
16 The recycled polymers used in Tetra Pak carton packages are produced under the RSB attribution model of chain of custody (RSB Advanced Products Category III, Recycled feedstock – 100% attributed). This means that the plastics are made of a mix of recycled and non-recycled materials, with the corresponding mass of recycled materials tracked throughout the Tetra Pak supply chain. This is verified by a third-party auditor, according to the RSB Chain of Custody Procedure, which forms part of the RSB Advanced Products certification.
17 In 2022, the amount of plant-based plastic used by Tetra Pak resulted in 131 kilo tonnes of CO2 saved compared to the amount of CO2 which would have been emitted if using fossil-based plastic. Based on climate accounting internal calculations (volume x emission factor) considering 72.7 kilo tonnes of plant-based plastic purchased in 2022. To calculate the avoided emissions number, we use a third-party emission factor for the plant-based polymers from public available lifecycle assessment by Braskem. Source: https://www.braskem.com.br/portal/imgreen/ arquivos/LCA%20PE%20I’m%20green%20bio-based_FINAL%20EN.pdf
18 Volumes exclude Blend in BIO (BiB) sold in Brazil. BiB is a mix of 75% LDPE and 25% plant-based LDPE
19 In this context, sustainable materials are referred to as renewable, paper-based materials. Examples include wood, hemp, wool, and bamboo.
20 Both ISCC PLUS and RSB rely on mass balance certification for attributed recycled polymers, with annual third-party verification of the integrity of the respective chain of custody.