Used beverage cartons are being recycled into classroom desks and that’s not where Tetra Pak’s sustainability story ends

Used beverage cartons are being recycled into classroom desks and that’s not where Tetra Pak’s sustainability story ends
Packaging has come a long way from natural containers like tree leaves bamboos, pottery and ceramics to molded glass, metal cans and plastics.

With the industrial revolution, the call for packaged food rose and the manufactures looked for better alternatives for their customers. When we think of packaged food, we immediately associate it with companies like Tetra Pak.

Tetra Pak’s journey with India began three decades ago when it started its operations in 1987. It was the first Carton Packaging Company in India and their vision to make food safe and available everywhere has touched millions of lives across the country since then. However, their promise of safety extends beyond just food, to the environment.

At a recently organized two-day leadership seminar titled, Today, Tomorrow, Together, which celebrated Tetra Pak’s thirty years in the country, a guest panel on Sustainability had representatives like Sanchita Jindal, Adviser, Ministry of Environment and Forests; Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur; Wilma Rodrigues, Founder & CEO, Saahas Zero Waste and Tetra Pak’s Jeff Fielkow on Day 1. The esteemed guests discussed the ‘Key success factors for implementing the Extended Producer Responsibility legislation’ and concluded that there is a long way to go for most Indian companies. The discussion was centred around the premise that sustainable global economy should combine long term profitability with ethical behaviour, social justice and environmental care. Tetra Pak has been a stellar example of that by being fully committed to sustainability practices long before the United Nations insisted on Sustainability reports from companies of all member nations in 2012, and also much before Legislation such as EPR (extended Producer Responsibility) came into play.

The company’s brand promise, PROTECTS WHAT’S GOOD clearly underlines everything they do at Tetra Pak. “Our promise is to protect food, to protect the communities that we work with and society at large, to protect the future of our customers and the environment. We realized long ago that there is a need to accord each of these commitments the highest priority; but conversely, we need to balance them as well – because no single commitment can be carried through at the expense of the other. We have also come to recognize that the only way to achieve this is through collaboration, innovation, determination and a strong sense of obligation across the entire company,” says Kandarp Singh, Managing Director Tetra Pak South Asia Markets.

Building a sustainable business involves collaborating with customers, suppliers, governments, NGOs and society. It requires a commitment to continuous innovation, developing technologies and materials that will drive efficiency, cut waste, promote the use of renewable resources and reduce environmental footprint, while continuing to meet the ever-widening needs of the market for packaging that keeps food safe.

Recently in Mumbai, over 1600 families in Colaba and Cuffe Parade got four benches made from recycled cartons and installed them at Sagar Upvan, also known as Mumbai Port Trust garden. The residents stopped nearly 18,000 cartons from ending up at city’s dumping grounds.

This is only one of many such initiatives being run by Tetra Pak, with the help of an execution partner called R U Recycling Greenlife (RUR). According to RUR, around 20% of used cartons sold through Sahakari Bhandar and Reliance Smart and Fresh outlets across Mumbai get deposited by conscious consumers and are recycled into useful products, but the opportunities are immense for other shopper citizens to follow suit.

Tetra Pak’s flagship recycling programme, called Go Green, was started in association with Sahakari Bhandar in 2010. With 44 collection centres across the city, Go Green has managed to collect over 20 lakh cartons and recycled them into 250 desks and over 100 garden benches.
This initiative is interesting because not only does it promote recycling of packaging materials but it also creates classroom furniture and notebooks out of the recycled material which is then donated to schools for the lesser privileged.

Kandarp Singh says, “There is need for a unified approach towards recycling in order to make our cities healthier and more habitable. Being a responsible manufacturer, we have been working ahead of the curve to set up a viable ecosystem to encourage and build awareness around the recycling of our fully-recyclable paper-based cartons. We are very thankful to our partners like Sahakari Bhandar, Reliance Fresh and RUR for their support in. The support that Mumbaikars have extended to us is very encouraging and we are ready to take this mission to the next level over the next few years.”

When it comes to sustainability the company is a great example to follow, and their sustainability story does not end at just recycling. The company is a frontrunner when it comes to ethical work practices starting from sourcing till recycling-

• RESPONSIBLE SOURCING - Cartons are primarily made from paper which is sourced only from well -managed forests to ensure that none of the endangered forests are affected. The internationally-accepted FSC symbol (Forest Stewardship Council) on Tetra Pak cartons indicate that they are made from paperboard from responsibly managed forests.

• WORLD CLASS MANUFACTURING - By controlling the entire production cycle, Tetra Pak ensures reduced wastage as it manufactures aseptic packaging material while increasing efficiency.

• INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS - Not just that, the company invests heavily in state-of-the-art latest technology and has developed processing and filling systems that minimise food waste while ensuring food safety and lowering environmental footprint.

• INCREASING RECYCLING AND CREATING AWARENESS - The company has been working ahead of the curve and partnered with organisations working across the waste value chain to boost recycling of used cartons as Tetra Pak realizes the impact its products can leave on the environment-

• 8,000 recycled Tetra Pak cartons can save 1 tree
• 6,500 recycled Tetra Pak cartons make 1 bench
• 6,000 recycled Tetra Pak cartons make 1 roofing sheet
• 4,500 recycled Tetra Pak cartons make 1 school desk
• 150 recycled Tetra Pak cartons make 1 notebook
(Source: Sahakari Bhandar)

Sustainable packaging

Given the increasing awareness about the environmental impact of packaging, Tetra Pak carton is the packaging of the future, being fully recyclable already, and with the company making sure that used cartons get an effective afterlife and do not end up at landfills.

The paperboard, which is 75% of the carton, is recycled into useful products and the 25% remaining fraction consisting of the polyethylene and the aluminum can be recycled into panel boards, roof sheets and so on.

Globally, sustainability is an important priority for Tetra Pak. Last year, the company launched Tetra Rex, made entirely from plant-based materials and 100 per cent renewable. Other options that Tetra Pak is looking at are biopolymers for caps and more.

Another stellar example of the sustainability story is the multi-stakeholder Municipal solid waste management program, ‘Alag Karo Har Din Teen Bin’, in Gurugram which was pivoted by the NGO Saahas starting September 6th. The program is aimed at establishing and sustaining segregation at source and develop capacities of the waste collectors to ensure high recycling rates in Gurugram.

“Gurgaon generates 1,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste daily. If source segregation is practised and collection and processing infrastructure is improved, it is possible to reduce the amount of waste being dumped by 85-90%. The MCG has started various projects for source segregation of waste and decentralised waste management,” says Narhari Banger, additional commissioner, MCG.

The program aims to reach out to 9000 households; 50 commercial establishments such as Offices and Malls; 50 schools and 500 waste pickers in order to spread awareness about three-way source segregation -dry waste, wet waste and hazardous waste.
"We want to sensitise people on proper waste management practices and the value that recyclables like used Tetra Pak cartons can provide to waste dealers and recyclers." says Kandarp Singh. "Our cartons are primarily made from high value paper and are 100% recyclable. We want citizens to be aware of good waste segregation practices and for them to take action in their own homes. We hope the people of Gurgaon see the value of projects like Alag Karo in making our Millennium city cleaner."