Renewable carton use is set to rise
The carton manuacturer is not specifying which additional brands (or even which countries) in Europe are going to contribute to the 100M-plus Tetra Rex Bio-based cartons it expects to sell this year, but has said it anticipates new launches outside Scandinavia “in the near future”, and will follow up with other bio-based carton formats for chilled and ambient products.
To date, the early adopters of the bio-based carton have come from the Nordic countries, starting with Valio in Finland, followed by Arla Foods, Vermlands Mejeri and, most recently, Tine in Norway.
The first beverage carton to be made entirely from plant-derived materials, it combines Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified board with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) laminate film and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for the cap, both bioplastics sourced from Braskem in Brazil. The chemicals company derives its ethylene (the precursor to polyethylene) from sugar cane waste.
It remains to be seen whether brand take-up of the bio-based carton will be as strong outside the bastion of consumer environmental awareness that is Scandinavia.
Regarding cost, Tetra Pak vice president for environment Mario Abreu said: “The current market price of bio-PE is higher when compared to fossil-PE, due to both higher raw material costs and limited availability from suppliers. However, we expect over time that bio-PE prices will come down to the same level as regular fossil-PE.”
UK brand owners might ask whether consumers really pay attention to these aspects of sustainability. Tetra Pak believed it had the answer, quoting 2015 research which found that 39% of consumers looked for environmental logos during purchase, while 23% recognised the FSC logo.
Asked whether consumers could actually be given too much environmental information, Abreu pointed to its 2015 research: “Responding to this consumer demand for more environmental information on packages, Tetra Pak is working with brands to display as much relevant information as possible.”
In the past, Tetra Pak has used bio-PE on its cartons in Brazil, achieving a reported 82% renewable content in Tetra Brik Aseptic packs in 2014.
“We plan to expand our renewable portfolio across the globe, based on market demand," said Abreu. “Our ambition is to develop fully renewable packaging across our portfolio by 2020.”
Tetra Pak’s venture into plant-derived bioplastics came in the wake of Coca-Cola's determined pursuit of its PlantBottle, which also uses Braskem bio-ethanol.
Meanwhile, beverage carton makers have improved their recycling record. The proportion of UK local authorities collecting used cartons has risen from 20% to 92% over the past decade.
Towards the end of 2015, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK) became joint owner (with the British Retail Consortium) of OPRL, which runs the UK's on-pack recycling label scheme.