The most important food packaging innovation needs to take recycling seriously

The most important food packaging innovation needs to take recycling seriously

Leak-proof juice and milk cartons made by Tetra Pak are pressed up layers of paper, plastic and aluminium.


The company Tetra Laval was founded in 1942 and their packaging technology has been called the most important food packaging innovation of the 20th century. Their products are light and easy(ish) to produce and the carbon footprint of a Tetra Pak carton is much smaller than any other type of packaging.

For example, a glass bottle takes 8 times the amount of energy to produce, a plastic bottle about 10 times and the production of tin cans 27 times! This means that glass would need to be reused 30 times (not recycled, but reused) to have the same carbon footprint as a Tetra Pak carton - and we're not even counting the footprint of waste collection and transportation.

Tetra Pak only weighs 60% of an equivalent sized tin can and takes up 20% less space during transportation due to their square size, meaning their transportation footprint is also smaller then the other packaging options.

You'd think this is the best way to keep your liquids, but the cartons are difficult to recycle and the UK only has one dedicated recycling plant.

A lot of people don't know if their council takes them for recycling and most cartons just end up in landfill. A single carton can take up to 300 years to break down, with its microplastics polluting our ecosystems. Tetra Pak is working with local councils to introduce recycling capabilities, and they have opened one dedicated recycling plant in West Yorkshire. They have set a recycling target of 40% for 2020 and claim that 90% of local councils are now taking cartons with their recycling scheme. I would love to know if they have been able to meet - or exceed - their target.

Tetra Pak has been using FSC approved woods for their cartons since 2015 and is looking into producing polyethylene made from sugarcane instead of oil, which would be a huge improvement.

Please check to see where and how you can recycle your drink cartons. 

The Guardian

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