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Tetra Pak sustainability concerns

April 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

A question mark over Tetra Pak items’ sustainability is once again the ‘talk of recycling’ in the UK. With the majority of Tetra Pak recyclables being exported to Sweden for reprocessing, many local authorities in the UK are choosing not to collect Tetra Pak items at kerbside.

The lack of a domestic recycling capacity for Tetra Pak drinks cartons (since the closure of the Smith Anderson recycling plant in Fife in 2006) is forcing the company to work hard on developing a viable UK reprocessing option.

As one of the world’s foremost food processors and packagers, Tetra Pak prides itself on providing millions of people across the globe with environmentally-friendly products. Founded in 1951, Tetra Pak now operates in almost 200 markets, and employs thousands of people. They have always been recognised for their innovative approach to packaging design.

It is perhaps surprising, then, that their enviable reputation could be irreparably damaged, unless a UK reprocessing option is not established soon; after all, if Tetra Pak items are always left at kerbside (while other companies’ packaging is regularly taken away) Tetra Pak could soon be perceived as the eco-friendly processing and packaging company that’s ‘being left behind’.

After the closure of the Smith Anderson plant, Tetra Pak asked several UK paper mills to participate in ‘trials’: the mass incineration and recycling of millions of used Tetra Pak cartons of all shapes and sizes (particularly all post-consumer beverage cartons); however, this proved unsuccessful, due largely to increased energy costs.

Although shipping the used cartons to Sweden (and its neighbouring countries) obviously costs more in transport expenditure, the Scandinavian option still works out cheaper for Tetra Pak overall.

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