Today 37% of global waste ends in landfills and 33% is openly dumped.1 Despite widespread local and regional recycling initiatives supported by a focused political agenda, relatively little waste is actually recycled. To improve this situation, recycling systems need to be advanced so materials can be kept in use. And it all starts with ensuring that packaging is designed for recycling.
As new food packages are brought to market, design for recycling needs to be further emphasised to maximise the value of the materials in the package after it has been used and enable the use of more recycled materials. That way we can help ensure that resources stay in use as long as possible.
When designing food packaging, manufacturers have a wide range of requirements to manage and balance. For example, while continuously improving sustainability performance, food safety should not be compromised, and consumer functionality needs to remain. It is crucial to understand the entire value chain from the sourcing of packaging materials to distribution and consumption to when the materials are processed by a recycling facility after use.
Today, a traditional Tetra Pak® carton package is made from an average of 70% paperboard, 25% plastic and 5% aluminium to protect the product inside. The cartons are already recyclable, but to further contribute to increasing recycling, we are investing heavily in the research and development of carton packages that are made with a simplified material structure and increased paper-based content.
In a circular economy, waste is eliminated, materials are recycled and re-used, and natural systems are regenerated, reducing manufacturing impact on the environment. At Tetra Pak, we are taking a circular approach to the design of our food packages.
This means we are accelerating the development of circular packaging by increasing the use of renewable and recycled materials. We’re designing packaging made with a simplified material structure and increased paper-based content along with solutions that help prevent littering. Renewable content is material that comes from renewable sources, such as wood or sugarcane, that grow back and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. Using renewable raw materials lets us reduce the package’s carbon footprint. Using recycled materials helps reduce waste, keeping materials in use for longer.
When it comes to reducing litter and plastic waste, we have recently introduced tethered caps, which will help minimise litter as the cap stays attached to the package after opening. In parallel, we are accelerating the expansion of paper straws as an alternative to plastic straws. We have also introduced certified recycled polymers, now available for food and beverage manufacturers, and we are committed to introduce 10% recycled plastic content across our carton packages in Europe by 2025, contributing to the use of recycled plastics.