Climate change is a major environmental concern for us all and something that Tetra Pak® cares passionately about. Throughout our manufacturing, transport and carbon management programme, we aim to minimise our carbon emissions.
In environmental studies across the world, cartons are shown over and over again to be a low carbon choice. Tetra Pak cartons are predominantly made from a renewable raw material - paperboard, which is also produced mainly using renewable energy. Our cartons are lightweight, transport efficient, recyclable and our aseptic packs can preserve their contents at ambient temperatures without the need for preservatives or refrigeration.
Find out more about the importance of choosing low carbon products, why cartons are a low carbon choice and about our work to reduce our carbon impact even further by exploring this section.
Climate change is a term that it is often used to describe the heating of the planet.
One of the things that keeps the Earth's thermostat warm enough for plants and animals to survive is the presence of so called ‘greenhouse gasses'- such as carbon dioxide - that trap heat from the sun and Earth to keep the Earth's atmosphere warm. This acts like a blanket around the Earth.
Sometimes this ‘blanket' can get too thick if you add too many of these gasses. This ends up causing the polar ice caps to melt, you knock out the balance of the Earth's weather patterns and you cause dry areas to become even drier!
This is exactly what we have seen in recent years and evidence shows that this is largely attributed to human activity. By doing things like burning fossil fuels that release carbon, we are artificially increasing the thickness of this blanket - with dangerous consequences.
So what can we reduce our carbon production and the impact we have? We can all make a difference by choosing low carbon products and by changing our daily habits and lifestyles slightly - so why not take a small step today, see how you can start increasing your use of renewable resources.
Understanding the environmental impact of a product throughout its life is an important mechanism by which a person can identify choices to minimise their environmental impact.
This is measured through a process called Life Cycle Analysis/Assessment (LCA). LCA is a tool that helps to identify and assess the environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle, identify areas for improvement and communicate the environmental profile of our products. LCAs help us to focus our attention on product-related environmental issues that are most important to address from an environmental impact point of view. In our work, we follow the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) 14040 international standards on LCA to ensure credibility, transparency and comparability.
LCAs are used worldwide in product and policy developments. e.g. In Germany, a LCA performed by the German Federal Environment Agency was used to determine which packaging systems should be subject to a packaging deposit.
Cartons were the only one way packaging system made exempt from this deposit as they were classified as ‘environmentally advantageous' under the German packaging law. Using the same LCA method, our German industry association (FKN) commissioned a new LCA in 2006 which confirmed the long term environmental benefits of the cartons.
Although LCAs can be very subjective and are highly dependent upon the importance placed on a number of different environmental impacts, cartons repeatedly perform very well. To find out more about how cartons perform in Life Cycle Assessments around the world please click here.
Cartons are repeatedly shown to be a low carbon packaging choice in Life Cycle Studies across the world and one of the key reasons for this is its raw materials.
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.
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 and offer an increasing range of renewable bio-caps for our cartons so that we offer easy to use openings, with carbon savings.
Did you know that the total weight of a carton only makes up around 3% of the total weight of the product you buy? This compares to nature's best package - the egg - that is made up of around 10% packaging and 90% contents. That makes cartons very resource efficient!
Find out more about how we try and design our products for the best resource efficiency, whilst protecting the goodness of the product inside it by clicking on the related link to the right.
Transport efficiency is essential in trying to reduce the number of trucks on our roads and the amount of emissions they produce. Cartons are ideal for this.
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
We make sure that we assess our transport suppliers on an annual basis to ensure they meet our requirements on the environment. They are all graded against a 14 point questionnaire, where they receive a green, red or amber rating. All red transport suppliers are phased out and all green transport suppliers are preferred. Amber suppliers can still be used where necessary, but they are required to improve their performance. This system has worked very well for us for a number of years and suppliers welcome the clarity it brings.
Long-life cartons have a special quality. Until opened, they are able to store product for up to a year without the need for preservatives or refrigeration. Not only do they keep the product until you need it, reducing the amount of food/drink wasted, but they save the carbon emissions associated with refrigeration as well.
All the products we consume have an environmental cost. This ranges from the energy required to grow, transport and process the raw materials used, to the environmental impact it has when disposed of.
Food wastage brings a double whammy. More food needs to be produced to compensate for the amount that is thrown away. Furthermore, this waste then becomes a pollutant itself, as well as producing other environmentally damaging products such as methane.
While some packaging is undoubtedly excessive, cartons actually help to reduce food waste.
Long-life cartons in particular have a special quality. They are able to store product for up to a year without the need for preservatives or refrigeration. Not only do they keep the product until you need it, reducing the amount of food/drink wasted.
The environmental impact of food waste is far more damaging than efficient packaging. Our cartons do their job effectively, safely packing more than 77,975 million litres of food and drink products throughout the world a year.
Photographed from 1996, you can see United States Vice-president Al Gore presenting the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development to Dennis Jönsson when he was President and CEO of Tetra Pak USA. Others from left to right include Ed Klein, Vice President Environment, Tetra Pak USA; and Marshall Cohen, Executive Director of the Aseptic Packaging Council.
The aseptic package received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, the only package ever to receive this coveted environmental prize. At a White House ceremony, the then Vice President Al Gore recognized the aseptic package for its earth-smart profile and commended the aseptic packaging industry for demonstrating "extended responsibility through a product's life cycle and an outstanding contribution to a sustainable future."
Sometimes called the "drink box," the aseptic package is a lightweight, energy efficient example of minimal packaging (typically 96% product to 4% packaging, by weight) that is being recycled in a growing number of communities across the USA and Canada. In addition, aseptic packaging retains flavour and nutrients, and allows traditionally perishable products (such as fresh milk) to stay unrefrigerated and shelf-stable for up to six months.
Reducing our environmental footprint goes hand in hand with improved efficiency and business competitiveness. We approach the challenge focusing on climate impact and work together with suppliers and customers to take responsibility for all parts of our value chain. We are committed to continue growing our business - but not our footprint.
Our 2020 goal is to cap climate impact across the value chain at 2010 levels despite business growth.
Instead of looking only at the carbon emissions of our own operations, we have widened the scope to cover Tetra Pak's entire value chain. It covers the total climate impact caused by the sourcing, production, use and disposal of our products, embracing our suppliers, our customers and our recyclers, on top of our own operations.
Capping might seem an easier goal than an absolute reduction. But, if we achieve the level of operational growth that we are forecasting, the cap equates to an improvement of around 40% in the CO2e (equivalent) performance of our products.
To find out more about how we do this globally, please click here.