Tetra Pak to trial green plastic for carton closures

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tetra pak, Greenhouse gas

Tetra Pak has agreed to carry out a limited trial to source green plastic from Brazil for use in its carton packaging in what the company said is a first for the sector.

The packaging and processing giant told FoodProductionDaily.com it hoped to blaze a trail for green polyethylene with its scheme - triggering greater investment in the sector to boost available supply.

The company today announced a deal with Braskem SA, Brazil’s largest petrochemical company, to buy small volumes of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) derived entirely from a renewable feedstock. The plastic will be used for the manufacture of plastic closures on its cartons in 2011. The agreement represents the first move toward using green polyethylene in the carton packaging industry, said a Tetra Pak statement.

Braskem will begin supplying Tetra Pak with 5,000 tonnes per year of green HDPE from 2011. The volume represents just over 5 per cent of the company's total HDPE demand, and is slightly less than 1 per cent of its total plastics purchases.

Tetra Pak president and CEO Dennis Jönsson, said: “While this pilot project is a small first step into green polyethylene, it marks another milestone in our sustainability journey … and underscores our commitment to finding new ways to use renewable materials in our carton packaging.”

Economically viable

A company spokeswoman told FoodProductionDaily.com that it was too soon to provide specific projections or a timeline for volume increases in its green HDPE supply.

“What we can say that it is our intention to match market demand for it at competitive prices that make this economically viable for the industry,”​ she added.

The initiative has been made possible by the prospective development of the world’s first commercial scale green polyethylene plant, which the Brazilian company expects to come on stream late next year. Braskem forecast its first deliveries to Tetra Pak would be made in 2011.

The new facility, located in the southern Brazil, will use ethanol derived from sugar cane to produce ethylene, which will then be converted into polyethylene, the world’s most commonly used plastic. Braskem estimates the new plant will result in an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared with the traditional process for manufacturing polyethylene.

GreenPE forecast

Tetra Pak confirmed its renewable PE will have the same properties as regular PE. One barrier to green polyethylene growth up until now has been that limited supply has kept market prices higher than regular fossil-based PE.

“With time and as supply increases, we expect that prices will come down to the same level as regular fossil-based PE,”​ said the Tetra Pak spokeswoman. “It is our goal to offer our customers packages using green PE at the most competitive price possible. We hope that with this move we will encourage increased investment in green PE and, therefore, more available supply. Increased volumes will enable green PE to become economically viable for industry.”

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