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Tetra Pak looks to fibre-based alternative to aluminium in cartons

Tetra Pak is testing a fibre-based barrier to replace the aluminium layer in its cartons for improved recyclability and carbon neutrality.

The “industry-first” technology is currently on shelf for commercial consumer testing for food carton packs distributed under ambient conditions. 

The consumer tests follow the successful completion of a 15-month commercial technology validation of a polymer-based barrier in Japan in 2020. The test helped the company understand the value chain implications of swapping out aluminium and quantify the carbon footprint reduction.

It also confirmed adequate oxygen protection for vegetable juice while enabling increased recycling rates in a country where recyclers favour aluminum-free cartons.

Tetra Pak says the aluminum layer typically used in cartons contributes one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions linked to its base materials, despite being thinner than human hair.

Incorporating these learnings, the company is now testing a fibre-based barrier alternative in collaboration with some of its customers.

A first pilot batch of single-serve packs featuring the new material is currently on shelf for a commercial consumer test, with further technology validation scheduled later this year.

Multiple considerations

Transformational and collaborative innovation is critical to enhancing the environmental credentials of carton packs, since shifting from an aluminium layer to an alternative barrier has implications that impact the full system, Davide Braghiroli, product director for packaging materials at Tetra Pak, told PackagingInsights.

“The implications span across the packaging material composition, the opening or closure and the sealing technology,” he explained.

“The aluminium layer in aseptic cartons has both a functionality to protect food from oxygen and light, and a technical purpose, because it is responsible for the sealing of the cartons in the filling machine.

“Therefore, it is critical to use the full product life cycle as the compass guiding our development, including supplier collaborations and recycling assessment.”

Eva Gustavsson, vice president for Materials & Package at Tetra Pak, added: “Addressing complex issues such as climate change and circularity requires transformational innovation. This is why we collaborate not just with our customers and suppliers, but also with an ecosystem of start-ups, universities and tech companies, providing us access to cutting-edge competencies, technologies and manufacturing.”

“We are investing €100-million per year and will continue to do so over the next 5-10 years to further enhance the environmental profile of food cartons, including the R&D of packages that are made with a simplified material structure and increased renewable content.”…..

PackagingInsights: Read the full article here

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