October 11, 2023

Used beverage cartons can be turned into new, valuable products like sports shoes and designer furniture. Here’s a look at some of the latest innovations.  

Driving circular solutions

The traditional “take-make-waste” economic model is failing to get the most out of our limited resources. We must shift to a circular economy, and a key part of this is to circulate products and materials, such as paper-based carton packages, at their highest value.

So, how do you go about doing that? Wherever the right collection and recycling infrastructure exists, paper-based carton packages can be sent to paper mills. Here, they’re mixed with water to separate materials – and one of the materials to come out of this process is polyAl, a mix of polymers and aluminium.

We’ve already covered what the future of recycled carton might look like in one of our stories, and we’ve written about the world’s first sports shoe made of recycled cartons.

In 2022, 1.2 million tonnes of paper-based carton packages were collected and sent for recycling, so there’s plenty to continue innovating with. Here’s a look at some recent cases where polyAl has been used to create new, valuable and beautiful products. 

Reimagining a Danish design classic

The 3 Days of Design fair took place in Copenhagen, Denmark in June. Here, the Conscious Chair – a collaboration between Tetra Pak and Danish design brand Mater, was unveiled.

Founded in Copenhagen in 2006, Mater has been working with a range of waste materials, including plastic waste, spent grain, discarded fish nets and sawdust. After connecting with Tetra Pak, Mater set out to combine polyAl and coffee waste to create the Conscious Chair. The material mix produces a unique compound that works well with press moulding, a popular furniture manufacturing technique.

“The Conscious Chair sets a new standard for innovation and sustainable design. The latest design is a new version in light blue that was made especially for us and we’re already using it in our offices,” says Maria Agustina Bottinelli, Workplace Strategy & Delivery Manager at Tetra Pak.

During the design event, Mater also showed off a chair made in collaboration with Arla, the Scandinavian dairy company. The Arla chair used milk cartons from the company’s own waste stream and coffee shells – as well as recycled material from Tetra Top® packages. 

The chairs are both part of Mater’s new Conscious Collection, which was originally designed in 1958 by the famous Danish designers and architects Børge Mogensen and Esben Klint. 

“This is the first time ever the Conscious Chair has been made with a different material than the original,” says Maria Agustina. “It’s been fantastic to contribute to showing how useful polyAl is – but also to be part of reimagining a classic design from Denmark.”

The collection is expected to be fully commercialised later this year and is available on Mater's website.

PolyAl Lulu stool

The commercial potential of polyAl

In Taiwan, local Tetra Pak Sustainability Manager Yuli Su is excited about the possibilities of using polyAl to create new products. Yuli and her colleagues had been working hard to find the right project where polyAl could be used to create a commercial product – and now, the Lulu Stool is available. 

Designed by Lance Han from DOT Design in collaboration with Green Footprints, the Lulu stool is made of 50% recycled plastic and is 100% recyclable. Each stool contains 720g of recycled polyAl from recycled Tetra Pak cartons, which accounts for 30% of the plastic content in one stool. 

 “The original Lulu Stool, which resembles the beloved dessert Canelé, was partially made from recycled toy plastic and recently received the prestigious IF Design Award 2023,” says Yuli.

For the latest version, the stool used recycled plastic pellets instead of toy plastic. Yuli was able to connect the designer with Lientai, one of Tetra Pak’s recycling partners in Taiwan to supply the polyAl.

“The stools have been getting a lot of attention for their unique appearance and eco-friendly construction. Within the first two weeks of being exhibited, the stool already received a lot of inquiries from interested consumers. That’s pretty strong proof that using polyAl can be commercially viable,” says Yuli. 

FiloAlfa Polyal lamp

The Italian connection: Developing a new polyAl material for 3D printing

The next stop is in Italy. Here, Lorenzo Nannariello, Sustainability Manager, and Gabriele Borelli,  Strategic Partnership Coordinator, have been working closely with a large polyAl recycler and a filament producer for 3D printing applications to accelerate secondary uses for recycled carton packaging.

“We connected with Filoalfa®, an Italian brand that specialises in producing and distributing 3D printing filaments because they’ve been developing more environmentally friendly formulations for filaments in recent years,” says Gabriele.

Filoalfa’s newest product, ALFAPAK 3D, is made mainly of recycled polyAl that come from Tetra Pak beverage cartons. 

The ALFAPAK3D filament is still new, but it already looks to have a lot of potential – according to Gabriele, it will be ideal for product that are meant to be used outside since polyAl is highly weather-resistant.

“I think it’s a great example of what’s possible with polyAl, and we’re only just beginning to uncover all the potential uses it has. We want to keep expanding on that and continuously expand our use of polyAl as a valuable secondary raw material that can contribute to a circular economy,” Lorenzo says. 

Tetra Pak Singapore office

Making an Aectual difference in the workplace

Aectual, a design brand based in Amsterdam, has previously worked with our Workplace Experience and Real Estate team to develop a series of interior objects made entirely of polyAl. 

This year, during a renovation of the Singapore office, the collaboration with Aectual was picked up again to create 3D-printed furniture made entirely from polyAl. The Singapore office was decked out with a new Aectual x Tetra Pak concept line that includes stylish and functional stools, planters, wall panels, and window screens.

“The recent transformation of our Singapore office shows our commitment to creating sustainable workplaces that contribute to a healthier planet while enhancing employee wellbeing,” says Martin Rollyman, who is part of Tetra Pak’s Asia Pacific Workplace Projects team.

The last point, in particular, was crucial for Martin and his colleagues. The designs from Aectual made it possible to build a workplace that promotes inclusiveness, collaboration and flexibility. 

“The new workspace is very accessible and easy to move about, and we’ve created spaces for wellness and activities so employees can recharge whenever they need it,” says Martin.

The Aectual collaboration project is now expanding and being rolled out across Tetra Pak’s locations worldwide, including in Beijing, Lund, Modena and Jakarta.

You can read more about our work to promote the recycling of beverage cartons here


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