With the introduction of its carton packaging containing attributed recycled polymers derived from advanced recycling, Tetra Pak has become the first company in the food and beverage packaging industry to be awarded the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) Advanced Products certification.
Attributed recycled polymers are recycled polymers derived on the basis of the mass balance concept. RSB, a global, multi-stakeholder independent organisation that drives sustainable development through certification and collaborative partnerships, has established an attribution model of chain of custody, in accordiance with which Tetra Pak’s new carton packaging has been produced produced. Hence, the plastics used are made from a mix of recycled and non-recycled materials, with the corresponding mass of recycled materials tracked throughout the Tetra Pak supply chain, and subsequently verified by a third-party auditor.
Tetra Pak is a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur New Plastics Economy Global commitment, explained Alejandro Cabal, Vice President Packaging Solutions at Tetra Pak. The company will continue to work to improve its products, ultimately with the aim of creating fully recyclable and carbon-neutral packaging.
Meanwhile: “We have pledged to incorporate a minimum of 10% recycled plastic content on average across carton packages sold in Europe by 2025, subject to suitable food-grade recycled plastics being technically and economically available,” he said.
In that context, Tetra Pak initiated a close supplier collaboration with Ineos to provide the first batch of attributed recycled polyethylene. Ineos joined forces with Plastics Energy last year, when it successfully converted the raw material produced using Plastic Energy’s chemical recycling technology into virgin-equivalent polymer at its cracker at Köln, Germany.
“Having worked closely with Ineos and RSB in the past few months, we are now able to offer carton packages integrating attributed recycled polymers, further enabling the sustainability transformation of the food industry,” Cabal said.
Recycled content mandates across the world are increasingly offering a regulatory push to ensure producers buy recycled materials. While this is increasing demand, helping to establish recycling as a go-to solution to the packaging problem as part of a move to circularity, it is not enough.
The latest Global Commitment progress report, published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in November 2020, indicated that – despite recycled content in packaging having grown by ‘22% year-on-year and the number of reduction targets having more than doubled – a substantial acceleration will be needed in the coming years to circulate everything we use, keeping it in the economy and out of the environment.”
Achieving RSB Advanced Products certification is just the next step towards more sustainable packaging, Cabal acknowledged.
“There is a long way to go before plant-based and recycled polymers become mainstream,” he said.
“We are working with partners to further explore sustainable polymers, while we continue to assess the use of alternative plant-based products and recycled fibre-based materials. Our long-term ambition is clear, for all our packaging to use renewable or recycled polymers, ending the extraction of fossil feedstock. Coordinated action and advocacy by multiple companies and other actors is required to support the transition to a low carbon circular economy.”