Plant-based packaging will be the future

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on September 05, 2021

Wide network: In India, Tetra Pak’s collection and recycling network has expanded to 26 states and union territories

Creative recycling: Used cartons are turned into furniture

For Tetra Pak, sustainability is a key driver of its research on cartons

We are slowly inching into a bring-your-own-container era. Supermarket chain Tesco earned applause last year when it trialled a refillable scheme for select products at its stores, eliminating packaging altogether.

The question then is how is Tetra Pak, a company whose business is packaging, moving forward in an era when people are trying to reduce waste?

Jaideep Gokhale, Vice President of Sustainability, Asia Pacific at Tetra Pak responds, “As much as our responsibility is packaging sustainability, it is also about keeping food safe and available, which is possible only through packaging.”

Having said that Gokhale points out how the needle is moving on making Tetra Pak cartons 100 per cent renewably sourced. Currently 70 per cent of the carton is made from paperboard, sourced from sustainably managed forests, 25 per cent is polymer and fossil fuel derived, while the remaining five per cent is aluminium.

“Our intention is to change that by 2030 making it wholly renewable. We are looking at polymers that are non fossil fuel based,” says Gokhale.

Tetra Pak’s 2021 sustainability report released recently points to stronger actions. The new portfolio of tethered caps on cartons, for instance, it says, will be made available as a plant-based option, thereby increasing the renewable content of the package.

In 2020 Tetra Pak sold 13.5 billion plant-based packages and 7.5 billion plant-based caps globally, made from segregated plant based polymers, fully traceable to their sugarcane origins.

While sourcing is inching towards wholly renewable materials, on the recycling front too, Gokhale says action is stepping up. Already the cartons are already 100 per cent recyclable – but the momentum is picking up on collection. Globally, Tetra Pak has over 170 recycling operations and the number of carton packages collected for recycling increased from 32 billion in 2010 to 50 billion in 2020.

In India, Tetra Pak’s collection and recycling network has expanded to 26 states and union territories, over 45 cities and 15 Army cantonments, supported by four recyclers.

“We are collecting back four out of ten cartons in the market, which is a decent rate considering that unlike Europe there is still no mandated legislation on segregation of waste,” says Gokhale.

The recycling rate has stepped up due to industry partnerships, says Gokhale with more F&B brands joining in the Action Alliance for Recycling beverage Cartons (AARC).

Published on September 05, 2021

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