Closing the loop: Tetra Pak’s journey to sustainable packaging for a more circular economy

Plastic is commonly used for packaging food to help keep food safe and nutritious while enabling safe consumption everywhere. Yet, it is also because of this convenience that made plastic a contributor to waste problem. Markus Pfanner, vice-president, sustainability, Tetra Pak, shares with Food & Beverage Asia the company’s strategies in embracing a circular economy, and the innovations it has developed to reduce environmental impact.

It is clear that the world is facing a crisis – on one hand we need to ensure food safety and food access for a growing population, while on the other hand we urgently need to address the planet’s challenges related to climate, ecosystems and resources, Markus Pfanner, vice-president, sustainability, Tetra Pak, declared.

Speaking with Food & Beverage Asia, he cited a report from the United Nations Environmental Programme, which pointed out that only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12% has been incinerated, while the remaining 79% has been accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environmental.

The global environmental agency further revealed that about 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

Cigarette butts, whose filters contain tiny plastic fibres, is identified as the most common item of plastic waste. This is followed by drink bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, drink lids, straws and stirrers – which are commonly used for packaging needs in the food and beverage industry.

Pfanner continued: “Packaging keeps perishable food nutritious throughout production, transport and storage, therefore limiting the generation of waste across the food chain. Recycling has become a go-to solution to the packaging problem, but the world cannot rely on recycling alone as fossil-based plastic production is still growing.”

Elaborating on his vision for the future generation of sustainable food package, he said: “This means creating cartons that are made of fully renewable or recycled materials, that are responsibly sourced and have a reduced impact on nature; contributing towards carbon-neutral production and distribution; that are fully recyclable and supporting an effective recycling system; that are convenient and safe, therefore supporting a resilient food system.”

The full interview is published on the latest edition of Food & Beverage Asia Oct/Nov 2020. To continue reading, click here.