Tetra Pak releases updated environmental performance

Related tags Tetra pak Greenhouse gas Carbon dioxide

Tetra Pak has issued an update of its environmental performance, in
which it claims that the group has made good progress in several
areas. But there is still work to be done if the group is to
achieve its targets and meet stringent new regulations.

The environmental regulator has cautioned food and drink manufacturers that if they fail to comply with essential environmental legislation they risk hefty fines.

In the report, Tetra Pak claims to have successfully integrated several environmental elements in regular business processes. This has resulted in improved consideration of the environment in product development and an increased number of manufacturing plants with green issues firmly entrenched in their World Class Manufacturing programmes.

For example, by the end of last year, all carton packaging material plants had their environmental management systems certified to ISO 14001, bringing the total of ISO 14001 certified plants to 85 per cent compared to 80 per cent in 2002. The remaining plants all have plans for the implementation of ISO 14001.

Tetra Pak also claims to have made significant inroads in the field of recycling. In 2003, 93 per cent of the waste generated at the company's plants was recycled. A small and decreasing portion - 3.6 per cent in 2003 - is sentfor final disposal (landfill or incineration without energy recovery). No fines for non-compliance with environmental legislation were reported.

In addition, Tetra Pak UK has pioneered the development of a comprehensiveapproach towards reducing the impact on climate change - by becoming carbon neutral. The division has assessed all greenhouse gas emissions from its UK operations and has developed an action plan.

"Firstly, we attempt to reduce our carbon footprint through energyefficiency and other environmental improvements,"​ said environment manager Richard Hands. "These are achieved through setting clear targets and undertaking efforts in areas such as employee awareness and technical improvements.

"For example, a more energy-efficient heating and ventilationsystem has been installed. Progress will be maintained throughour World Class Manufacturing programme so that by the endof 2005, we plan to have cut energy consumption per millionstandard packs by 18 per cent compared to 2002."

The food processing and packaging industries have been under great legislative and consumer pressure to adopt greener production methods. Food giant Unilever​ for example has adopted a strategy similar to that of Tetra Pak UK in order to achieve energy reductions.

A distribution centre in Coventry, UK for example has been fitted with state-of-the-art insulation and energy re-use facilities and has produced savings in refrigeration costs of some 40 per cent compared with traditional designs.

Much of this improvement comes from special mats beneath the cold store which re-use heat from the refrigeration plants. The company claims that the building has been designed to blend into the landscape.

Unilever claims that it is leading the industry in this respect - the Unilever Bestfoods UK (UBF) division has saved £1.34 million since 2001 by reducing energy use. The company, which manufactures brands such as Marmite, Flora and Pot Noodle, has cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 14 861 tonnes.

However, Tetra Pak has admitted that there is room for improvement in a number of areas, such as energy efficiency. This is a major topic for every manufacturer at the moment. Although energy efficiency improved by just 3.3 per cent last year, the company says that its goal is to achieve 15 per cent energy efficiency improvement by 2005 compared to 2002.

Major improvements are therefore needed this year if Tetra Pak is to achieve this goal.

Carton packaging material production represents 80 per cent of total energy and has the largest influence on our overall energy efficiency performance. A global energy savings programme was adopted in 2003, and factories developed energy reduction plans and targets for 2004-2005.

Tetra Pak's use of renewable energy is also low. However, the group claims to have initiated a 'Sustainable Energy Programme' to explore possibilities such as using "green electricity" and other options to further reduce its impact on climate change.

Tetra Pak​ has also made little progress in reaching its target goal of 25 per cent recycling of post-consumer beverage cartons worldwide by 2008. The global recycling rate in 2003 was 15.4 per cent, compared to 14.6 per cent in 2002.

However, Tetra Pak says that there is potential to achieve higher recycling rates in an increasing number of markets. The group has identified opportunities for recycling repulping residuals (the non-fibre materials -polyethylene and aluminium- in the package that remain after repulping).

In Brazil for example, Tetra Pak partnered with Alcoa, Klabin and TSLAmbiental to develop a recycling process based on plasma technology, whichseparates these residuals into pure aluminium and paraffin. A first industry-scale plant is being built with a planned start up date by the end of 2004.

The group has made limited progress on acquiring raw materials for Tetra Pak packages from renewable resources. Based on data provided by global suppliers, 51 per cent of all fibres purchased comes from independently certified forests, compared to 49 per cent in 2002.

However the group has introduced some innovations with environmental benefits. One such example is the result of Project Wide, a new kind of packaging material that Tetra Pak has recently started to introduce and which makes the seals of packages tighter and stronger. The material is manufactured with a reduced amount of polymers resulting in a higher renewable content and lighter package weight.

There is real regulatory pressure on manufactureres to imrpove their environmental performance. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is one of many policies being introduced across Europe to tackle emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and combat the serious threat of climate change. The scheme comes into force on 1 January 2005.

However, a survey from Logica found that levels of knowledge of the scheme are worrying low. Across Europe, only one third are very well informed, slightly higher in Germany and Spain, and three out of every 10 companies admit to being poorly informed. These levels indicate a significant lack of in-depth knowledge for a scheme with such far-reaching impact, just a few months away from its intended start date.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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