Check out some of our most frequently asked questions about cartons and renewability, how cartons protect your food, how you can recycle them and what Tetra Pak®, as a company, is doing to maximise carton recycling in the UK.

General FAQs

What are cartons made from?

Tetra Pak® cartons are made from wood in the form of paperboard, as well as thin layers of aluminium and polyethylene. The most common Tetra Pak carton is 74% paper, 22% polyethylene and 4% aluminium. On average, our cartons contain 73% paperboard.

Why do the cartons need aluminium and polyethylene layers?

The aluminium foil serves as a barrier to light, flavour, and oxygen, which enables the contents to last for months without preservatives or refrigeration. The polyethylene acts as a water-tight barrier.

Does Tetra Pak have an environmental policy?

Yes, we work very actively on environmental issues. Information on our approach to achieving environmental excellence can be found on our website at www.tetrapak.com.

Environment is a strategic priority for Tetra Pak and the company has established ambitious targets to 2020. The three main objectives are to reduce environmental footprint across the value chain, develop sustainable products and to increase recycling. Read more in our Sustainability Reporting Portal.

Why is it good to buy milk in cartons?

The paperboard in cartons keep out harmful light which can have a harmful effect on many of the nutrients, particularly vitamin B12. It can also affect the taste.

189ml carton of semi-skimmed milk provides a six-year-old with:

  • all the vitamin B12 he or she needs
  • around half of the calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B2
  • about one third of the protein, potassium and iodine
  • nearly one tenth of the vitamin C
  • around one tenth of the vitamin A, vitamin B1, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and zinc he or she needs each day

One glass of milk can supply 300 mg or more of calcium to the body, which represents a third of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for adults, especially women. Source: Dairy Council

Why is it good to buy orange juice in cartons?

There are lots of factors which can influence the quality of the orange juice we drink – from processing and storage to the packaging it’s in. However, the main factors which can cause deterioration in the quality of the orange juice we drink are high storage temperatures, combined with oxygen and light.

For example, at room temperature, just 1 mg of oxygen can degrade 11 mg of Vitamin C. Because Tetra Pak cartons keep the oxygen out, they prevent this degradation of Vitamin C. In fact, the oxygen barrier that Tetra Pak cartons provide is four to five times better than that of a standard transparent package.

What have you done to improve the functionality of your cartons?

We have worked hard over the years to ensure that a wide range of caps, closures and straws are available to ensure our cartons are easy to use, whilst doing the job they need to do - protecting the contents within.

Just two examples include our DreamCapTM Opening, perfectly designed for opening, resealing, pouring and drinking from on the go. The second includes our Tetra Recart package that already sits within the canned food aisles. This is lightweight, easy to store and can be opened easily without the need for scissors or other opening devices. To find out more about all the packages we make, please click on Our Portfolio.

What is Aseptic packaging?

Aseptic packaging means filling a sterilised package with a sterile food under a confined hygienic environment. By making sure we provide a package that is able to keep out light and air, we are then able to protect the product within for up to a year without the need for preservatives or refrigeration.

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Renewability FAQs

What does renewability actually mean?

Renewable resources are natural resources that, if managed properly, are replaced by natural processes at a rate comparable to, or faster than, they are used up. Wood, wool, hemp, corn are all examples of natural, renewable resources.

Our ultimate goal is to be able to offer a fully renewable carton package for liquid food.

If renewability is so important, how come no-one knows what it means?

Five years ago no-one was aware what ‘carbon footprint' meant. We are proud to continue raising awareness of this crucial issue.

Is it bad to cut down trees?

It is not bad to use trees as long as;

  • The trees do not come from high conservation value or intact natural forests;
  • The trees are replaced either through planting or through natural regeneration;
  • The local characteristics of the forest, including biodiversity and the practices of people using the forest, are protected.

In fact, there are many benefits of using renewable resources like wood as long as they come from responsibly managed Sources. Good forest management helps provide livelihoods for those people who depend on them, and helps support and look after the environment, its biodiversity, and other vital resources such as water and soil quality.

Our ultimate goal is to be able to offer a fully renewable carton package for liquid food.

Is cutting down trees causing forests to disappear?

Not to make our cartons and other products made from responsibly managed forests. In fact, Northern forests, from which Tetra Pak® sources its wood pulp, have been growing in size over recent decades.

Is Tetra Pak FSC® Chain of Custody certified?

100% of our paperboard sourced in Europe is traceable to its origin in the forest and meets the FSC chain-of-custody standard.

In order for us to put the FSC label on a carton both the converting factory and the market company has to be FSC COC certified, and we need to use FSC COC certified board to produce the carton.

What about your non FSC certified material?

Through the work carried out in its forestry programme, Tetra Pak knows that all paper board used in its converting factories comes from known and acceptable sources. In particular:

  • Our Forestry Guideline states a requirement that all wood fibre used in paper board for Tetra Pak must come from legal and acceptable sources, and that all suppliers must have a system to trace all wood fibres back to the forest of origin.
  • All suppliers annually report the origins of the wood fibres in the paper board supplied to us through the supplier evaluation process. We are using an independent consultant, ProForest, to ensure that the reporting is correct and that all paper board is made from wood fibres from known and acceptable sources.
  • Certification is a voluntary process that brings a third-party additional level of scrutiny. The FSC certification and labelling gives an independent guarantee that the wood fibres in our packaging material comes from FSC certified, well managed forests and other controlled sources. It makes it easier for us to communicate about forestry and renewability.
  • For our latest progress on FSC certification, please visit our sourcing section of our Sustainability Reporting Portal.

Where do the trees used to make cartons come from?

The trees used to make Tetra Pak cartons come mainly from Sweden, Finland, Russia and the USA.

Do you source wood from rainforests?

No. And we have put rigorous traceability systems in place to this end. We only source wood from legal and acceptable sources. These systems are independently verified and certified annually according to ‘Chain of Custody' standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and /or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

100% of our paperboard sourced in Europe is traceable to its origin in the forest and meets the FSC chain-of-custody standard.

What other renewable materials can you use to pack liquid foods like you?

Cartons are one of the only liquid food packaging systems made mainly from renewable materials other than biopolymer bottles. For non liquid products, there is a number of starch or paper based packages available.

But why is Tetra Pak so committed to using renewable materials?

We understand the importance of looking after the planet's resources, so the obvious reason is that as renewable materials can be replaced and regenerated, it means that that we don't run out of them as long as they are managed properly.

Another key reason however, is carbon and climate impact.

Whilst paperboard makes up around 73% of the pack, it only makes up around 28% of the carbon footprint of the raw materials needed to package. This means that the plastic (which is in all our packs) and aluminium (which is in make up over 70% the carbon impact of the raw materials, whist they only make up 27% of the pack. This means they are more carbon intensive materials. In fact, the aluminium, which makes up less than 4% of the pack, contributes around 50% of the carbon footprint of the raw materials.

This is why we continually work to reduce the amount of plastic and aluminium we use in the first place. For example, the layer of aluminium we use is only around 6 microns thick, less than that of a human hair. We are also investigating how to increase the share of renewable materials we use, and reduce our complete packaging footprint through research.

For the plastic, “green polyethylene" (polymer from sugar cane alcohol) is being tested and we are also looking at non-aluminium alternatives. The introduction of Tetra Wide, a plastic used for the inner liner of our cartons, has now been rolled out across our whole portfolio, allowing up to 30% less plastic to be used here. We are also working to light-weight the plastic caps we use on our carton so that we offer easy to use openings, with carbon savings.

In searching for these alternatives however, we need to make sure that the carton still does the job it needs to do. Cartons are repeatedly shown to be a low carbon packaging choice in life cycle studies across the world and long life cartons offer the additional carbon saving of helping to reduce food waste, without the need for refrigeration.

What about the non renewable bit?

Cartons are made mainly (on average 73%) from wood in the form of paperboard. This is a natural, renewable resource and if managed properly, the forests are constantly replaced, either through planting or through natural regeneration so that the trees can be used for many years to come.

When it comes to the remaining 27%, as you can well imagine paper does not react well to liquids, so we use plastic to water-proof the carton and in the case of our long-life packs, we use a very thin layer of aluminium to keep oxygen away from the carton's contents.

This allows the contents to be stored for up to or over a year, without the need for refrigeration or preservatives. This means that no nasties need to be added to keep your product to keep it for longer, allowing you to store your product until you need it, helping to save on food waste. This also means that you can save a lot of energy throughout the supply chain as the product does not need to be kept cold to keep it fresh.

What are you going to do to become more renewable as a company?

As a company, renewability is at the heart of Tetra Pak's business. Our products, cartons are made mainly from wood in the form of paperboard, a natural renewable resource. As a commitment to being more renewable, Tetra Pak has ensured that 1.5 billion of its cartons in the UK and Ireland can now carry the FSC label.

Information on our approach to environmental issues in the UK can be found here: www.tetrapaksustainability.co.uk; and global excellence can be found here: www.tetrapak.com.

What is Tetra Pak doing to reduce its use of aluminium?

First of all, we use as little of it as possible. The layer of aluminium we use in our ambient packages is only around 6 microns thick. This is less than that of a human hair and is thinner than any other foil used for any large scale industrial purpose.

Secondly, we are of course also researching alternatives for the longer term, however it is important to realise the limited alternatives available that offer such unique protective properties. The aluminium barrier in an aseptic carton prevents food spoilage and waste by keeping out oxygen, harmful bacteria, light and aromas. Unopened aseptic cartons can keep product fresh for up to a year without the need for refrigeration or preservatives, saving on energy and food waste in distribution, retail and storage.

How much aluminium do you use in your cartons in the UK?

Less than 1000 tonnes of aluminium is used in all the Tetra Pak cartons sold by Tetra Pak UK

What does responsible forest management mean in practice?

Responsible forest management is about finding a balance between environmental, social and economic aspects of forestry:

  • Environmentally appropriate forest management means that the harvest of timber does not affect the plants, animals and other organisms of the forest in a negative way. In practice this means leaving both living and dead trees in harvesting sites, leaving forest set-asides next to the managed areas, keeping a mix of tree species in the forest etc.
  • Socially beneficial forest management helps both local people and society at large to enjoy long term benefits of forest management. In practice this means that forest owners involve indigenous and local people in the planning of the forest management to make sure that they can still use the forest for recreation, food and fuel gathering etc.
  • Economically viable forest management means that forest operations are planned and managed to be profitable, without generating financial profit at the expense of the future forest resources. In practice this means having long term harvesting and regeneration plans.
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Low Carbon FAQs

What is the carbon impact of your cartons?

In environmental studies across the world, cartons are shown over and over again to be a low carbon choice. Find out more about these studies and the carbon impact of the cartons studied, please click here. To find out what makes sure that cartons have a low carbon impact, please click here.

What do you do to reduce your carbon impact?

It is essential for us to ensure that our cartons keep their low carbon profile and that we continually improve our environmental performance.

To find out more about how we do this, please click here.

Why are cartons a low carbon packaging choice?

Cartons are repeatedly shown to be a low carbon packaging choice in Life Cycle Studies across the world and there are a number of reasons for this.

First of all, if you map out the environmental impact of a package throughout its life, you will tend to find that it is the raw materials that make the biggest share of the carbon impact of the package overall. The fact that Tetra Pak cartons are predominantly made from a renewable raw material - paperboard, which is also produced mainly using renewable energy, means that they start off life with a lower carbon impact than many other raw materials.

The second reason is that we use as few raw materials as possible. On average, your carton will only account for 3-4% of the total weight of the final product you buy, which is less than an egg - natures best package!

Cartons are also very transport efficient. As our cartons are only formed and filled on our customer sites, most of our cartons are delivered in giant rolls of packaging material. Just one truck can transport enough packaging to make nearly 1 million standard 1 litre cartons*. It would take over 50 trucks to deliver the same number of formed bottles.

Even after filling, the carton's shape enables more packages to be loaded on to a pallet i.e. 1 pallet can generally hold at least 33% more 1 litre cartons* than the equivalent in formed bottles with a round base.

*Tetra Brik 1000ml

For more information on this and other reasons why cartons are a low carbon packaging choice, click here.

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Consumer Recycling FAQs

How do I find out where I can recycle my cartons?

It's easy: visit www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk and click on our interactive map, or contact your local council. For recycling facilities in Ireland, please visit www.recycletogether.ie

Do I have to remove the plastic cap from the carton before recycling?

No. The caps can be left on.

The bring bank at my local recycling centre is overflowing, who will deal with this?

Collection of the bring banks is coordinated by our Trade Association ACE UK. If you see overflowing bring banks please contact the ACE UK recycling team (Tel: 01244 893846, Email: enquiries@ace-uk.co.uk).

Why you just produce a single material carton?

The structure of our cartons is optimised to limit environmental impact whilst providing a carton that meets the functional demands of the consumer. In a nutshell, the materials in our cartons provide the best protection for the drinks inside them. The paperboard (made from wood from managed northern European forests) provides strength and stiffness, the polyethylene makes the packages liquid tight and provides a barrier to micro-organisms, whilst the aluminum foil keeps out oxygen and light, to ensure the food doesn't become contaminated, deteriorate or change flavour.

In this way, the contents of a longlife package can last for several months without the need for refrigeration or preservatives. Using small amounts of plastic and aluminum also allows paperboard to be used as the main material.

Is there a waxy coating on your cartons? - Isn't that why they are difficult to recycle?

No, there is no wax in cartons. Cartons are made from paperboard, plastic and in the case of longlife cartons, aluminium. The recycling process is actually quite straightforward and can be seen here. There is a dedicated carton recycling facility in Halifax that many Local Authorities are already using and would like to get many more on board

Why can’t I put other paper-based packages, such as cereal boxes into the carton bring banks?

Cereal boxes and other similar forms of packaging do not contain liquids so they don't require aluminium and polyethylene to preserve their structural integrity or keep the contents fresh. The 'greyboard' used in such packaging also does not contain the same high-quality fibres that are found in cartons and therefore cannot be recycled in the same process as cartons.

Where do the collected cartons go?

Cartons collected in the UK can now go to the carton recycling plant in Halifax, UK. It takes advantage of the strength and quality of the virgin wood fibres found in cartons by turning them into industrial-strength coreboard. This is then made into 100% recyclable tubes and cores, which are used to wrap paper, man-made fibre yarns, and metal and plastic film around for industrial applications.

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FSC

FSC - The mark of responsible forestry