Plastic packaging has been one of the main sources of the world's pollution crisis. Recently, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar pointed to the rise in plastic demand due to its increasing use as a packaging material in the FMCG sector. He said that around 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day in India out of which 40 per cent remains uncollected. Although several FMCG companies have been aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and move to environment-friendly packaging options, the progress has been slow.
Tetra Pak, the biggest packaging company in the world, says it collects roughly 35,000 tonnes cartons every year to recycle them into paper and other products. "Fifty-four per cent of all Tetra Pak cartons are collected and recycled each year. We aim to take it to 100 per cent," says Ashutosh Manohar, Managing Diretor, South Asia Markets, Tetra Pak India.
Tetra Pak cartons, says Manohar, are 100 per cent recyclable and can be used to make different products. Currently, the carton packs have 75 per cent paperboard with layers of polyethylene and aluminum.
Tetra Pak has identified four recycling partners across India that have the relevant technology to convert its carton into different products. They are also used by paper mills, which recover 75 per cent of the paper in them.
The rest 25 per cent is used to make PolyAl that is used in making roofing sheet, desks and chairs and toilet doors, among others. Alternatively, the recycler can also shred the entire carton and compress it on a metal sheet where it can be used to make chipboards. Bajaj Auto uses these chipboards to make its driver and passenger seat and back-rests in e-rickshaws.
They have also tied up with several NGOs, which work with waste pickers to ensure a steady supply to these recyclers to prevent the used cartons from going to landfills. The challenge, Manohar says, is that they are not able to get enough used cartons for the recyclers to achieve economies of scale.
For the purpose, last year they formed Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons, a not-for-profit organisation, to strengthen the end-to-end waste management ecosystem by engaging with NGO and brands across the value chain.
The firm is looking to ensure that 100 per cent of the raw materials in its products are derived from renewable sources. Currently, 25 per cent of the packaging is from non-renewable sources. "We aim to reduce the use of polyethylene and the aluminium foil over a period of time," says Manohar.
He adds that they are trying to reuse a part of the paperboard again into new packs. Today, although the food safety legislations don't allow recycling of raw material due to safety concerns, they are likely to be modified in the near future.
The net sales of Tetra Pak's group firm Tetra Laval was Euro 13.9 billion in 2018.