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Sustainable Packaging 2019

Collaboration is key in today’s circular economy

Erik Lindroth

Sustainability Director, Tetra Pak Europe and Central Asia

In a linear economy, ‘take (raw materials), make, use and dispose’ has been the production and consumption process for decades. This process has rightly come under recent scrutiny from all corners of government, industry – and from consumers too.

Consumers are demanding less single-use plastic, more information on how and where packaging material is sourced, and how that material can be recycled. Essentially, they want to know how their actions impact the environment in a more circular economy.

As a packaging company, our role must fit into a bigger picture where everyone – from the government, to retailers, to industry, to consumers – works together to protect what’s good.

Action to support a circular economy

We’re seeing the UK and Scottish Governments taking policy action to provide the right conditions to enable a circular economy.

Their move towards policies that improve our waste management and recycling infrastructures, such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Schemes (DRS), preserves the ‘producer pays’ principle when it comes to the recycling of waste packaging.

In Scotland, the design of a DRS trial is a significant step towards the Government’s zero waste ambition. This is welcome progress, especially for convenience and on-the-go drinks brands.

Making household recycling easier

The UK Government has consulted on a similar DRS system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and is developing plans for consistent household recycling. This has the potential to provide much needed clarity to consumers on what they can recycle at home.

But these initiatives will be ineffective if they are not accompanied by a change in consumer, retailer and manufacturer behaviour, underpinned by widespread public awareness campaigns.

A simple and straightforward approach

For consumers, the key is simplicity and clarity. That is why we believe that, once viability has been tested, all packaging formats, including cartons, should be included in a DRS across the UK.

This is alongside consistent household recycling collections and EPR. Without this consistency, we will continue to see recycling efforts hampered by consumer confusion.

The renewable carton

On average, over 70% of the material that makes up our cartons is paperboard, made from trees which, through collaboration with the Forest Stewardship Council[1]® (FSC®), are harvested from responsibly managed forests and other controlled sources.

Yet it’s what happens to a carton after it is used that truly contributes to a collaborative, circular economy for all. In the recycling process, the different material streams that make up the package – paperboard, aluminium and polymers – are separated, and made into new products such as cardboard packaging, soap dispensers, napkin holders and plant pots.

Currently, cartons are collected for recycling in over 94% of local authority areas, with around two thirds implementing kerbside collection from homes.

For many years now we have actively worked closely with ACE UK, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, alongside councils, to increase this coverage and continue to do so. Our support in facilitating the opening of a dedicated carton recycling plant in Halifax in 2013 is testament to this.

In addition, with up to 80% less plastic and three times less CO2 impact than an equivalent plastic bottle[2], Tetra Pak cartons outperform the majority of other packaging formats such as plastic, glass and aluminium, when it comes to carbon footprint.

We at Tetra Pak are also part of an exciting partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and its New Plastics Economy[3] commitment, which calls for more action to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging.

This is just the start, and as we continue to converse and innovate, we’re ready to continue our collaboration with the wider industry to tackle the circular economy challenge head on.

[1] The FSC® license code for Tetra Pak is FSC® C014047 | [2] Source: UK Comparative Life Cycle Assessment, IFEU 2018, Dairy category | [3] www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/spring-2019-report | [4] www.tetrapak.com/about/newsarchive/first-carton-packaging-company-to-launch-paper-straws

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