In a circular economy, manufacturers design out waste, re-use and recycle materials and regenerate natural systems to reduce industry's impact on the environment. It's a powerful idea and an essential part of sustainability today. But it needs to go further.
A low-carbon circular economy also takes into account the climate impact of raw materials and the manufacturing value chain. Unlike fossil sources, plant-based renewable raw materials can reduce carbon emissions as they grow and are reused and recycled. For example, it's been estimated that in Europe, forests and the forest-based bio-economy could capture 25 percent of current CO2 emissions1.
And in a low-carbon circular economy, the whole value chain is optimised for minimum climate impact. This means operations that are powered by renewable energy, manufacturing processes that are highly efficient and logistics that reduce fuel use.
Tetra Pak is committed to a low-carbon circular economy in which the entire value chain has minimal climate impact.
Plant-based raw materials such as wood and sugar cane are essential to our low-carbon circular economy approach. They help preserve the environment for future generations. Renewable resources, like wood, can be replenished naturally over time, while reducing our dependency on finite resources and materials. They can also promote sustainable forest management and protect biodiversity. Today, the average renewable content of our carton packaging material is 71 percent . Ultimately, we aim to make all of our packaging from 100 percent renewable materials.
Recycling is at the centre of a low-carbon circular economy that aims to reduce waste and keep materials in use for longer. All Tetra Pak carton packages are recyclable and can be transformed into a wide range of new products. We work to improve the recycling value chain wherever our cartons have a presence. As part of the EU plastics pledge, we commit to working with industry partners to ensure that by 2030, recycling solutions are in place for all components of beverage cartons across Europe. Our partnership with Veolia will enable all components of used beverage cartons collected within the European Union to be recycled by 2025. Around the world, one million tons of used beverage cartons are recycled every year.
The low-carbon circular economy depends on fossil-free, renewable energy and highly efficient operations. We have committed to RE100 to source 100 percent renewable electricity across our operations by 2030, and to cutting operational greenhouse emissions by 42 percent in the same timeframe.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste accounts for 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions as well as creating a significant financial cost to business. In a low-carbon circular economy it must be kept to a minimum. Tetra Pak was founded on keeping food safe and available everywhere, and our packages and processing equipment are all designed to minimise the waste of food and beverages.
Food and beverage transportation always has a carbon cost. But it can be reduced with innovative packaging. With Tetra Recart® packages, food can be packed in lightweight, rectangular packages that allow 10-20 percent more units per truck to be transported. And they have been shown to have an overall climate impact five times lower than steel or glass.
1 Source: EC: JRC Science for policy report Bioeconomy report 2016 (pdf)