Tetra Pak introduces certified recycled polymers

Tetra Pak has announced the introduction of certifiedrecycled polymers, becoming the first company in the food and beveragepackaging industry to be awarded the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials(RSB) Advanced Products certification. Its carton packages integratingattributed[1] recycled polymers are now available for food andbeverage manufacturers.

This move marks a key step in Tetra Pak’s approach tocircularity which includes: minimising dependency on fossil-based resources;responsibly sourcing raw materials; designing packages for enhanced recyclingand reduced litter; and building partnerships to develop effective collectionand recycling infrastructure worldwide.

Alejandro Cabal, Vice President Packaging Solutions,Tetra Pak said: “As signatories of the Ellen MacArthur New Plastics EconomyGlobal Commitment we have pledged to incorporate a minimum of 10% recycledplastic content on average across carton packages sold in Europe by 2025,subject to suitable food-grade recycled plastics being technically andeconomically available. Having worked closely with INEOS and RSB in the pastfew months, we are now able to offer carton packages integrating attributedrecycled polymers, further enabling the sustainability transformation of thefood industry.”

Using recycled material can contribute to increasedrecycling rates and make recycling more economically viable. But reliablesourcing and quality can be a challenge, due to the limited availability offood-grade recycled plastics in the market at present. 

With this in mind, Tetra Pak initiated a close suppliercollaboration to explore utilising recycled polymers in carton packages andidentified INEOS to provide the first batch of attributed recycled polyethylene(PE). The global manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oilproducts is leveraging PLASTIC ENERGY’s advanced recycling process to convertwaste plastic into high-quality polymers, replacing oil-based products withmaterial featuring identical specifications and the same level of productpurity as virgin plastic.

Cabal added: “RSB certifies that the attributed recycledpolymers used in the caps, tops and/or coatings of Tetra Pak carton packagesare produced sustainably[1]. Being the first in our sector to beawarded the RSB Advanced Products certification represents yet anothermilestone in our journey towards the world’s most sustainable food package: acarton that is fully made from renewable or recycled materials, is convenientand safe - hence enabling a resilient food system - is fully recyclable andcarbon-neutral. Qualifying and providing assurance of mass balance claims iscritical to ensure transparency and accountability within the system, thereforeenhancing confidence from the end-user perspective.”

Following the RSB chain of custody attribution method[2],the plastics are made of a mix of recycled and non-recycled materials, with thecorresponding mass of recycled materials tracked throughout the Tetra Paksupply chain.

Initiatives such as these are the need of the hour.Recycling has become a go-to solution to the packaging problem as part of amove to circularity. But the world cannot rely on recycling alone, asfossil-based plastic production is still growing – it reached around 368million metric tonnes in 2019.[3] Meanwhile, recycled contentmandates across the world offer a regulatory push to ensure producers buyrecycled materials; this increases demand and thereby encourages expandedoffer. NGOs are also strongly supporting this move. The latest Global Commitmentprogress report, published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in November 2020,indicates that – despite recycled content in packaging having grown by ‘22%year-on-year and the number of reduction targets having more than doubled – asubstantial acceleration will be needed in the coming years to circulateeverything we use, keeping it in the economy and out of the environment’.[4]

Cabal concluded: “There is a long way to go beforeplant-based and recycled polymers become mainstream. We are working withpartners to further explore sustainable polymers, while we continue to assessthe use of alternative plant-based products and recycled fibre-based materials.Our long-term ambition is clear, for all our packaging to use renewable orrecycled polymers, ending the extraction of fossil feedstock. Coordinatedaction and advocacy by multiple companies and other actors is required tosupport the transition to a low carbon circular economy.”

[1] The recycled polymers used in Tetra Pak cartonpackages are produced under the RSB attribution model of chain of custody (RSBAdvanced Products Category III, Recycled feedstock - 100% attributed). Thismeans that the plastics are made of a mix of recycled and non-recycledmaterials, with the corresponding mass of recycled materials tracked throughoutthe 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 RSBAdvanced Products certification.

[2] See https://rsb.org/the-rsb-standard/about-the-rsb-standardfor more information.

[3] RSB Advanced Products Category III, Recycledfeedstock - 100% attributed. Tetra Pak’s RSB certification code isSCS/RSB-C-0039.

[4] Source:https://www.statista.com/statistics/282732/global-production-of-plastics-since-1950/

[5] Source:https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/Global-Commitment-2020-Progress-Report.pdf