Our ambition is to deliver the world's most sustainable food package. One way to do that is to increase our use of plant-based polymers. Today, a portion of Tetra Pak carton packages shipped around the world already come with sugarcane-based plastic layers and caps. But our work is far from finished. We’re working towards a future where all polymers we use will be made from plant-based or recycled materials, while securing the same levels of quality and safety.
If you’re interested in knowing what plant-based polymers can mean for sustainable packaging — explore how we’ve spent the past decade developing and optimising the right solution.
2011: The industry’s first plant-based caps
We launched the industry's first caps made from plant-based polymers in 2011. Derived from Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, they look exactly like conventional caps but have a significantly lower carbon footprint. Where plant-based caps are available, customers can easily switch without additional investment or modifications to filling machines. Recyclability is not impacted, as the new materials are processed together with conventional polymers without restrictions. We can now offer plant-based caps for all advanced packaging formats.
2014: The world’s first fully renewable package
In 2014, we launched the world's first fully renewable package for liquid food, the Tetra Rex® Plant-based, made with plant-based cap, neck and film. By early 2018, we had delivered more than half a billion fully renewable packages.
2016: The first aseptic carton package certified for its use of renewable materials
Next we launched the Tetra Brik® Aseptic 1000 Edge with plant-based LightCap™ 30. It is the first aseptic package to have a film and cap made from sugar cane-based plastic. Combined with the paperboard, this lifts the share of materials from renewable sources in the package to above 80 percent, the threshold for four-star certification from testing company TÜV Austria.
2018: Embracing the EU’s plastic strategy
We pledged our support for the EU's plastics strategy in 2018. The strategy is an important part of the EU's Action Plan for a Circular Economy. This commits us to substantially increasing the use of plastics made from renewable feedstock and to using recycled plastics once they are validated as safe and are legally acceptable for use as a food contact material.
2019: The New Plastics Economy and Bonsucro certification
In March 2019, we joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy Global initiative — as part of which, in July 2019, we became the first carton packaging company to launch paper straws in Europe. We expect to expand production to meet global demand by 2025.
In October 2019, we became the first company in our sector to obtain the Bonsucro Chain of Custody certification. This reinforces the existing Responsible Ethanol Sourcing Programme from our long-term supplier Braskem with independent, third-party sustainability certification of the entire sugar cane supply chain, all the way to the growers and mills. All our products made from plant-based polymers are delivered to customers as Bonsucro certified from March 2020.
We currently use the same responsible sourcing requirements for our plant-based polymers that we use with all our purchase categories
2020: RSB certification
In August 2020, we became the first company in the food and beverage packaging industry to be awarded the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) Advanced Products certification. This represents yet another milestone in our journey towards fully sustainable packaging: where the sourcing and use of recycled polymers is recognized and approved by trusted certifications.
The recycled polymers used in the caps, tops and/or coatings of our carton packages are produced under the RSB chain of custody attribution method (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, but that the corresponding mass of recycled materials has been 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.
There is a long way to go before plant-based and recycled polymers become mainstream. As the transition continues, we bear in mind the social cost of producing such materials, making sure local food availability, and working conditions are not affected.
Despite considerable progress, plant-based and recycled polymers are still niche within the plastics industry and make up a small fraction of our cartons. Yet our commitment to expand the use of plant-based materials, across more of our packages and all sizes, holds firm.
We are working with partners to further explore sustainable polymers, while we continue to assess the use of alternative plant-based products, organic waste, algae and recycled fibre-based materials. Our long-term ambition is clear: for all of our chilled and ambient packaging to use renewable or recycled polymers, ending the extraction of fossil feedstock.