“Game-changing” Tetra Pak-Veolia partnership to ensure entire carton has recycling value

“Game-changing” Tetra Pak-Veolia partnership to ensure entire carton has recycling value

21 Nov 2018 --- Tetra Pak has secured a significant sustainability boost by partnering with recycling specialists Veolia to ensure that all material components of its cartons have end-use recycling value. While the paperboard component can already be converted into cartons and paper towels, Veolia’s systems will also enable the polymer and aluminum (PolyAl) mix to be converted into industrial applications such as oil canisters and pots (HDPE) as well as crates and plastic pallets (PE Alu). In essence, this means the overall value of used Tetra Pak beverage cartons is expected to double, making the value chain for collection and recycling more efficient and viable.

Tetra Pak describes the new partnership as a “game-changer.” It will enable all components of used beverage cartons collected within the EU to be recycled by 2025, starting with France in 2019.

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David Cox, Senior Executive Director Veolia, and
Mario Abreu, Tetra Pak's Vice President Sustainability

Lisa Ryden, Recycling Director, Tetra Pak, tells PackagingInsights that this is “a long-term partnership, allowing joint development and joint optimization of the recycling streams, or scale up in various geographies, so the milestone we [Tetra Pak] have given ourselves is 2025. We will be starting work in Europe and then expand globally.”

The average Tetra Pak beverage carton comprises around 75 percent paperboard, 20 percent plastic and 5 percent aluminum foil. While the fibers recovered during recycling have a healthy market when converted into high-quality paper pulp for use in both industrial and consumer products, the same is not currently true for the recovered PolyAl mix.

By partnering with Veolia, Tetra Pak is aiming to solve this issue. The supplier will now be able to ensure that HDPE from its plastic caps is convertible to oil canisters and pots, while the PE Alu is convertible to industrial applications such as crates and plastic pallets.

“Something new and useful”
Can Veolia facilitate a “closed loop” system for Tetra Pak’s cartons in which the recyclate is used to produce new cartons? Ryden says that the answer is not yet, but perhaps in the future: “We are evaluating and developing applications for use of PolyAl in products for distribution of our packaging and in our own operations.”

“To date, recycled materials are not used in our carton packages because the materials we use need to meet a number of food safety and functional requirements and standards. However, we have committed to using recycled materials as soon as it is proven safe for use in direct contact with food.”

As things stand, “all materials from beverage cartons can be fully recycled into something new and useful,” Ryden says. “Our approach to recycling involves working with many partners along the value chain because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

“The challenge in the EU is to achieve the economies of scale and turn PolyAl into high-value secondary materials. With this partnership, we are combining our respective areas of expertise to find sustainable solutions for PolyAl recycling.”

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Establishing recycling infrastructure
Ryden explains to PackagingInsights that Tetra Pak continuously works with the relevant stakeholders in each market to support the expansion or the establishment of the collection and infrastructure needed to facilitate the recycling of beverage cartons.

“In the UK, for household collection, more than 68 percent of local authorities in 2018 collected from the kerbside and a further 25 percent of areas are served by bring bank collections,” Ryder says.

“Currently, cartons collected for recycling in 35 percent of all local authority areas are sent to a dedicated carton recycling plant in the UK, which opened near Halifax in 2013. Indeed, we would welcome seeing this grow, as the UK recycling plant has the capacity to take more. Fifty-seven percent of local authorities export to the global recycling market.”

Laurent Auguste, Senior EVP Development, Innovation & Markets at Veolia, comments: “This partnership joins together our resource management expertise and Tetra Pak’s packaging material expertise. We will develop an environmentally and economically sustainable solution to recycling PolyAl, first in the EU, and then Asia, to improve collection, technology and processes.”

“We are proud to embark on this journey with Tetra Pak to sustain and grow beverage carton recycling. At Veolia, we work every day to make waste a valuable resource, and we are constantly developing innovative solutions, and investing in technologies, as part of our wider commitment to living circular,” Auguste adds.

While visiting the Tetra Pak headquarters in Lund, Sweden, PackagingInsights spoke with Mario Abreu, Tetra Pak's Vice President for Sustainability, about the supplier’s sustainability achievements and the challenges it faces.

Last month, Unilever and Veolia signed a three-year collaboration agreement focused on driving emerging technologies in waste collection and recycling infrastructure. The partnership aims to establish a circular economy on plastics across a number of international regions, starting in India and Indonesia.

In September, Veolia called for more standardized packaging which ensures products are recyclable by design. The announcement came as it was revealed that 93 percent of UK consumers think plastic bottles should contain recycled content and that they would be willing to pay an average of 2.5p more.

By Joshua Poole, with additional reporting from Laxmi Haigh

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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