Increase Recycling

We are committed to increasing the recycling of used beverage cartons, aiming to double the global recycling rate by 2020 to 40%.

​​Doubling global recycling

Tetra Pak has been at the forefront of recycling for many years. However, our 2020 recycling goal represents a whole new level of ambition. We aim to double the recycling rate from 20% in 2010 to 40% by the end of the decade. Taking the company's growth into account, this actually means tripling the volume of recycled cartons. It's a challenging goal, but we are committed to passing on the value from our used packages. 

How recycling works

The purpose of carton recycling solutions is to transform used beverage cartons into new products, or raw materials that can be used in several different ways. We divide carton recycling into three categories:​

  • Fibre recycling – the paper in our packages is used to produce pulp as material for new products.
  • PolyAl recycling – the plastic (polymer) and aluminium foil in our packages are used, either together or separately, as material for new products.
  • Full carton recycling – The whole package is used to produce material for new products, without separating the paper, plastic and aluminium foil.​

Read more about carton recycling​​

Increasing consumer awareness​

Most consumers prefer to buy products in packaging that they know is recyclable. According to a global study conducted on behalf of Tetra Pak, 89% of consumers prefer to buy products in packages they know to be recyclable.

Increasing public awareness is one of the key success factors to reach our ambition. We do this through school programmes, consumer campaigns and partnering with local organisations. For example, in Turkey, we started a recycling awareness programme for school children in 2005. Since then, ‘Little Things That Renew Nature’ has reached more than 1 million children in Istanbul, Bursa and Izmir.​

Building infrastructure

It's not enough for a package to be recyclable; consumers also need to know what to do with their empty packages, and recyclers need a reliable supply.

There are significant differences in waste handling legislation, infrastructure and recycling rates around the world. The process of collecting and sorting differs from market to market – it is often informal and manual in developing countries and highly mechanised in more mature markets. So in some countries, the main challenge is to develop a collection infrastructure.

We support the development of this infrastructure by identifying opportunities for improvement in each market and working with partners on the ground, to influence legislation or to facilitate discussion between collectors and recyclers.

Markets showing great progress in collection infrastructure include the United States and Brazil, where more than 71,000 tons of Tetra Pak packaging was recycled in 2013 – a 9% increase compared to 2012.​​

Expanding market for recycled materials​

Without demand, there is no incentive to collect cartons or make products from recycled materials. To expand the market opportunities for recycled carton materials, we conduct research to understand what products the materials in our cartons can be used for, profitably.​

In Brazil, a mix of polymer and aluminium (polyAl) has been used to make roof tiles in since 2000. Results from our cooperation with universities on three scientific papers further validate the benefits and in the last 13 years, the market has grown from one company producing 10 tiles an hour to 15 manufacturers making a million tiles per year.

​In 2013, Tetra Pak experts developed a centrifugal dryer that can dry and extract excess fibres from the polyAl, halving the time it takes to make roofing tiles and contributing to a better final product. Nine companies in Brazil, as well as other companies in the region, are adopting this new technology.

Increasing recyclability through design

Another way we facilitate the recycling of our products is through packaging design innovation. For instance, in 2013, we launched Tetra Evero® Aseptic 1000 Separable Top, a product that enables consumers to detach the plastic top from the carton sleeve and recycle them separately. Read more about packaging design.   

Business opportunities for recycling entrepreneurs

When it comes to turning the collected cartons into products or viable raw materials, we help local recyclers explore profitable business opportunities and recommend effective technical solutions. Every day, more than 150 companies in 45 markets – from small enterprises to multinational companies – currently recycle the base materials used in Tetra Pak cartons. 

For example:

  • Deluxe Recycling in India, a family business with around 50 employees, turns recycled cartons into thick boards for the construction industry
  • Both StoraEnso, a Finnish pulp and paper manufacturer, and Sweden’s Fiskeby Board, Europe’s oldest manufacturer of paper and board, use recovered plastics as an energy source for some of their factories
  • Luhai Environmental Protection in China sells aluminium flakes from our cartons for the production of insulation bricks and fireworks.​

With Tetra Pak’s support, Hangzhou Fulun Ecology Technology in China has invested in new equipment and chemical delamination technology that allows plastic and aluminium to be separated. Fulun now sells recycled paper to wallboard and packaging companies, polymers to plastic recyclers, and foil to fireworks manufacturers. The company’s new education room (pictured) also promotes recycling to visiting school groups and local officials.

Read more about recycling in the Sustainability Update 2014​

Man recycling

Making recycling work

Recycling is not our business, but it is our business to make recycling work. Tetra Pak acts as catalyst in the recycling business. We do not own or operate any collection infrastructure or recycling plants. Instead we cooperate with all key stakeholders including recyclers, waste management companies, public institutions and others to achieve our recycling goal.

Of course this is accomplished in conjunction with our municipal and industry partners globally. This means that the appropriate forms of collection, sorting, and recycling will be determined by local needs. For example, we are members of ACE (the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment) in Europe, CEMPRE (the Business Commitment for Recycling), in both Argentina and Brazil, and TIPMSE (Thailand Institute of Packaging and Recycling Management for Sustainable Environment). We also cooperate with government initiatives like Clean Up World in Arabia, and the Chinese CEC (Circular Economy Committee), and we work with the civil society through Non-Governmental Organisations.

Boy recycling carton

Increasing consumer awareness

According to a global study conducted on behalf of Tetra Pak, 89% of consumers prefer to buy products in packages they know to be recyclable. Increasing public awareness is one of the key success factors in reaching our ambition. We do this through school programmes, consumer campaigns and partnering with local organisations.

Do you want more information about Recycling? Please contact us