The Covid-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the F&B packaging industry just like on most aspects of life and business. Unprecedented levels of health awareness and lifestyle-related information over the past couple of years have altered the way consumers view food and nutrition including the way food and drinks are packaged. These fast-changing trends have prompted the F&B packaging industry to innovate at a matching pace to meet the converging needs of both consumers and the environment.
Tetra Pak, the global leader in packaging solutions, has been at the forefront of bringing about a paradigm shift in the way food is packaged and distributed. In 2020, Tetra Pak announced its commitment to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its own operations by 2030 and its ambition to reach net-zero GHG emissions across the entire value chain by 2050. The brand’s sustainability strategy is founded on its commitment to a low-carbon circular economy, one which considers not only recycling and reuse but also the climate impact of raw materials and manufacturing.
In this context, Tetra Pak has identified the use of plant-based raw materials such as wood and sugar cane as essential to the company’s low-carbon circular economy approach.
This global drive to create circular economies has been carried over to the Middle East as well, with Tetra Pak joining hands with regional governments and private entities to achieve sustainability targets and ambitions in the Arab world too. Tetra Pak is a member and co-chair of the Policy Committee of the Circular Economy Council, which was initiated by the UAE Government last year to develop and implement policies that enable a low-carbon circular economy. Initially chairing the Sustainable Manufacturing working group in the first rounds of workshops, Tetra Pak focused on providing policy recommendations for packaging waste management and regulations, highlighting the importance of the adoption of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for more efficient and functioning collection and recycling schemes. Tetra Pak believes the creation of a circular economy can only happen through the engagement of the entire value chain, with partnerships between public and private sectors, aligning efforts and actions towards a more sustainable future.
“The impact of climate change on nature and biodiversity loss, pollution, and waste are increasingly harming our ecosystem. Everyone – organisations, governments, and individuals – has a role to play to restore and protect our planet,” says Niels Hougaard, Managing Director of Tetra Pak Arabia Area.
In the UAE, Tetra Pak has already tied up with Union Paper Mills (UPM), the country’s leading paper recycler, with the objective to increase the overall collection and recycling of used beverage cartons (UBC). As part of the tie-up, Tetra Pak will support UPM with UBC recycling capabilities including the necessary technology to adapt a pulping line that will be installed and operated at UPM premises located in Dubai. Tetra Pak will also lend its support on the technical know-how for the recycling line as well as facilitate engagements between waste management companies and UPM. This will further increase the capacity and overall efficiency of the UBC collection, transportation, treatment, and recycling system.
“At Tetra Pak, we strongly believe in global and local partnerships in order to support the broader sustainability goals of the nation. Our partnership with UPM is a testament of our commitment towards protecting the planet. The joint strengths of Tetra Pak and UPM will enhance the UAE’s sustainability quotient with regards to UBC recycling,” says Hougaard. Tetra Pak believes this partnership with UPM sets an example for the industry as it will better support the UAE’s sustainability ambition.
Tetra Pak has also entered into a partnership with UAE-based Nuitree Food to establish a specialised plant-based manufacturing facility in the country that will provide comprehensive end-to-end processing and packaging solutions delivery.
“These projects are examples of how we aim to inspire and create circular economies by making sure our packaging’s end-of-life cycle is taken advantage of to benefit our planet,” Hougaard adds.
The year 2022 also saw Tetra Pak introduce innovations such as plant-based, aluminium-free packaging, tethered caps on carton packages, and E3/Speed-aseptic filling machine with eBeam to various markets as part of its sustainable packaging solutions. Joining forces with leading beverage producers, Tetra Pak launched tethered caps on carton packages, marking a significant milestone in the company’s long-term work on design for recycling. Tethered caps play an important role in preventing litter, as the cap will stay attached to the package. They could also help reduce the carbon footprint of the carton when they are chosen by food manufacturers as plant-based options, and made from polymers derived from responsibly sourced sugarcane, thereby increasing the renewable content of the package.
Meanwhile, the E3 series of filling machines that use eBeam technology to sterilise packaging material is another milestone in the brand’s sustainability plans. The use of electron beams to sterilise packaging material instead of the traditional hydrogen peroxide sterilisation process means fewer chemicals need to be stored and treated, leading to reduced consumption of water and energy. Tetra Pak says the continuous operation of eBeam reduces the packaging and product waste that happens during the set-up of the hydrogen peroxide sterilisation process, allowing improvement of the production facility’s environmental performance.