When a recycling value chain is working well, it also prevents littering, saves resources and reduces climate impact. To ensure our recycling efforts are aligned across our business, in 2018, Tetra Pak established new circular economy teams, organised in our global sustainability function.
We use high quality raw materials to make our packaging and fulfil our mission to make food safe and available everywhere. Once our packaging has fulfilled its purpose, those raw materials shouldn’t go to waste. Instead, they can be collected and - using relatively simple techniques - recycled into something useful.
On average, more than 70 percent of our packaging material is made from long, strong paper fibres that can be recycled several times. The thin layer of polymers – or plastics – in our beverage cartons can be blended with other polymers and turned into new products, such as roofing tiles, crates, carton boxes and more.
As we continue to drive collection and fibre recycling, we are also increasing our focus on polymer recycling in our packaging. As part of our recent pledge to the EU Plastics Strategy, we will work with partners to ensure that by 2030, recycling solutions are in place for all components of our beverage cartons.
Recycling contributes to a low-carbon circular economy that keeps valuable materials in use. It also helps prevent littering, saves resources, and reduces climate impact.
In 2010, we set a goal to double our recycling rate to 40 percent by 2020. We were the first packaging company to set such an ambitious target and have made considerable progress towards it. In 2018, our global recycling rate was 26 percent (from 25 percent in 2017). However, it is important to note that through our initiatives we have contributed to recycling a lot more than that, accounting for 40 percent of all packages in the market. Used beverage cartons are collected in 77 markets around the world, and PolyAl is collected in 48 markets.
Setting the goal was the right thing to do; it provided a direction that focused our work. The target raised the importance of recycling – both within and outside Tetra Pak. It helped us align partners along our value chain, and significantly improve recycling awareness and infrastructure along the way.
During this time, we also evolved our approach to recycling. We learned that every market has different needs and levels of maturity. Rather than focus on a global single indicator - overall recycling rate - we need to perform against more specific and locally relevant objectives. These keep us competitive and mean we will continue to meet the needs of our customers and other stakeholders. While recycling rate remains a relevant metric, a global recycling rate is no longer indicative of our main target nor the most meaningful measure.
In Thailand, used beverage cartons have been transformed into corrugated roofing sheets for emergency housing. As well as preventing waste and reducing CO2 emissions, this public participation project has also helped raise awareness of the value of recycling.
Recycling works when all the necessary factors are in place and well connected. A weak or missing local link – such as a lack of efficient collection systems, separate collection of packaging and waste management infrastructure – is a challenge. With our new range of market-relevant objectives, we can tailor our approach to focus on actions with the greatest potential for impact or progress; we can zero in on the right problem in any given geography and solve it in the right way. We are currently driving local recycling initiatives in more than 70 countries.
Our new set of objectives and relevant metrics fall into six categories: consumer awareness, customer awareness and collaboration, collection and sorting, fibre recycling, PolyAl recycling and increasing the value of recycled materials.
Some examples of recycling objectives in action
We take a value chain approach to recycling. This means working on everything from consumer awareness, and collection and sorting infrastructure, through to expanding market opportunities for recycled materials and boosting business opportunities for recycling entrepreneurs. Partnering and connecting stakeholders is critical to building sustainable recycling value chains. We collaborate and associate with a wide range of local and global stakeholders, including waste management companies, recyclers, municipalities industry associations and equipment suppliers.
Read more about how we build recycling value chains
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