Rodney Reynders, Sustainability cluster leader for the Greater Middle East & Africa region, explained that Tetra Pak’s sustainability strategy is founded on a commitment to a low-carbon circular economy that takes recycling and reuse, as well as the climate impact of raw materials and manufacturing into account.
According to Rodney, demand stems from consumers, retailers, producers and post-consumer waste recyclers who increasingly seek the value of carton packaging to support a circular economy, supply chain and operational efficiencies, new business and revenue models, job creation, and environmental activism.
He cited the company’s partnership with several local retailers and a milk producer – which resulted in the introduction of plant-based closures made from polyethylene derived from sugar cane – as an example of increasing the total carton’s renewable content to greater than 80% on average.
Rodney added that Tetra Pak believes that packaging will be made solely from renewable or recycled materials by 2030.To meet this ambitious goal, the company is trialling an alternative to the carton’s aluminium layer that doesn’t compromise food safety and will be fully recyclable at scale and fully integrated into a low-carbon circular economy by 2030.
In the meantime, Tetra Pak is working with local rigid plastics product manufacturers to develop products made from the recycled plastic and aluminium layers. ‘New end-use products such as roof tiles, point-of-sale materials and durable pallets for use in logistics systems ensure that we close the loop and keep valuable raw materials in use for longer,’ asserted sustainability manager, Agripa Munyai.
The recycled carton fibre is used in corrugated boxes, cereal folding cartons, and the inner cores for new reels of carton packs. Tetra Pak’s Pinetown (KZN) facility manufactures cartons as flat packs in a continuous roll and winds them onto reels, which can weigh several hundred kilograms each. They are then sealed for safe and hygienic distribution.
Agripa conceded that there’s still much to do in terms of transforming the PCR cartons into more high-end value products, which cater to a variety of marketplace needs. Recycling rates reached 4 906 tons in 2019 – up from 3 709 tons in 2016 – but annual capacity between Mpact Recycling and Gayatri Paper’s mills is 36 000 tons.
The original recycling rate target set for 2020 was 18% of all cartons produced in South Africa – an increase of 4%. The impacts of the national lockdown, which meant no collections or recycling operations during level four and five, will most likely result in the rate remaining the same as in 2019.
Paper straw allocations
AS reported in PPM July 2019, Tetra Pak has introduced its FSC-certified paper straws, which are manufactured in Lisbon (Portugal), in the European market because that’s where plastic straw legislation is the most stringent.
Rodney Reynders, cluster leader of Sustainability for the Greater Middle East & Africa, however, explained that Tetra Pak Southern Africa is negotiating for phased-in paper straw allocations for Mauritius (as a priority) and the rest of the region.
In July, Mauritius issued a notice of a ban on ten single-use plastic products, including plastic straws, which becomes effective from January 15, 2021. Three months later, it will also ban straws attached
to beverage cartons.
In the short-term, however, the company is encouraging consumers to push the straws back into the cartons. This will ensure that they’re recycled along with the polymer and aluminium layers to avoid litter.