Consumers Emphasising on Recyclable & Eco-friendly Packaging Materials
Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, recognising the importance of sustainability, and placing greater emphasis on recyclable and eco-friendly packaging materials.
They want products they buy to meet their needs, said Tetra Pak's Regional Sustainability Director for Middle East and Africa, Marcelo Piva.
In an exclusive interview to Sustainability Middle East (SME), Mr Piva spoke in detail on an array of topics ranging from recycling to customer trends and adoption of renewable energy.
Below are the excerpts of this interesting discussion...
Q. Kindly explain your role at Tetra Pak Arabia.
A. As the Sustainability Director of Tetra Pak for Middle East and Africa region, , I am responsible for overseeing the company's Sustainability initiatives and efforts in developing collection and recycling programs for carton packages in in the region.
My position involves leading and managing a team of Tetra Pak professionals in the region and driving the company's Sustainability agenda while helping provide food security and availability to the region.
My role is also to innovate with stakeholders and industry professionals towards the entire value chain to improve the environmental performance of Tetra Pak's products and operations, and to ensure the promotion and adoption of sustainability practices across the industry’s supply chain.
Q. Can you share the key highlights of Tetra Pak’s latest sustainability report?
A. Tetra Pak's 2022 sustainability report emphasises its progress towards reaching its sustainability goals and the initiatives it has been taking to fulfil its commitment of making food safe and available everywhere while protecting our planet.
The company has been focusing on several areas including the promotion of circularity, the reduction of GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions, the increase of renewable energy sources usage, and the improvement of its own supply chain’s sustainability.
The company has made significant strides towards reaching a 100% use of renewable energy target and to become Net Zero in its operations by 2030, and throughout its entire value chain by 2050. The report shows that, by 2021, the company had accomplished a 36% decrease in GHG emissions associated with its operations, a doubling of its solar capacity to 5.55 MW, and procurement of 80% of its energy from renewable sources.
Tetra Pak is also working alongside various innovative collaborators to convert food waste into nutritious food sources, create alternative protein-based food applications that can greatly decrease land and water usage and reduce carbon footprint compared to conventional sources, and develop more sustainable packaging options.
In fact, as the leader and innovator in sustainable packaging and processing of food and beverages, Tetra Pak aims to produce the most sustainable food packaging in the world, made solely from renewable or recycled materials, that is fully recyclable and carbon neutral. This is part of our journey "Go Nature, Go Carton."
Meanwhile, the company has been constantly deploying plant-based polymers and increasing its applications to meet consumer demands and address the need for more sustainable packaging alternatives.
Tetra Pak’s 2022 Sustainability Report revealed that Tetra Pak had sold 17.6 billion packages and 10.8 billion caps made from plant-based polymers, which resulted in a reduction of 96 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions compared to using traditional polymers.
The company has successfully tested polymer-based alternatives to replace the aluminium layer in aseptic cartons and is testing new fibre-based barriers for carton packaging of foods that can be stored at room temperature.
Moreover, Tetra Pak has invested €40 million supporting collection and recycling of carton packages.
Tetra Pak has been instrumental in developing recycling solutions for carton packages in the Arabia Area region. In Saudi Arabia, has formed partnerships with two leading recycling companies, Obeikan Paper Industries (OPI) and Saudi Top Plastic Factory (STP), with the aim of increasing carton packages collection and recycling.
The project involves investing over €3 million to create value for post-consumer carton packages UBC by establishing a recycling hub. This hub processes cartons collected from Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries by using a pulping process to separate paper fibres from polymers and aluminium (PolyAl).
OPI recovers the paper fibres and transforms them into high-quality recycled duplex board, while STP recovers the PolyAl and turns it into plastic granules through an extrusion process. These granules are sold to plastic recyclers and used as raw material for products such as plastic pallets and crates.
Recycled duplex boards can also be used for various end-uses, including tissue boxes and other folded cardboard packages. This project has enabled the partners to create new industries by collecting, recycling, and selling new products from potential waste, thereby contributing to the creation of circular economies, and allowing Tetra Pak to continue protecting food, people, and the planet.
Q. As there is a lot of buzz around COP28 being hosted in the UAE, what is Tetra Pak doing to support the UAE Government’s vision with regard to sustainability?
A. Tetra Pak is engaged in providing sustainable packaging solutions and collaborating with local stakeholders in raising environmental awareness and education levels, with the purpose of supporting the UAE government in its sustainability agenda.
Tetra Pak is a leading provider of sustainable packaging solutions that are designed to minimise the environmental impact of packaging.
The company's packaging is made from an average of 70% renewable materials, such as paperboard and plant-based polymers Tetra Pak’s leadership in providing food and beverage packaging and processing solutions to the region and to the UAE is an initiative that allows it to support the UAE’s sustainability agenda.
Moreover, Tetra Pak collaborates with local stakeholders, such as government agencies and NGOs, to drive environmental awareness and education.
Tetra Pak is a board member of the newly launched Circular Packaging Association in the UAE and is a member of the Policy Committee of the Circular Economy Council, established last year by the UAE Government with the purpose of developing and implementing policies that enable a low-carbon circular economy.
As Chair of the Sustainable Manufacturing working group, Tetra Pak focuses on providing policy recommendations for packaging waste management and regulations, highlighting the importance of the adoption of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for more efficient and functioning collection and recycling schemes.
Tetra Pak believes the creation of a circular economy can only happen through the engagement of the entire value chain, with partnerships between public and private sectors, aligning efforts and actions towards a more sustainable future.
The company works closely with such stakeholders to promote sustainable practices, such as recycling and waste reduction, allowing them to be involved in the fight against climate change and the realisation of the UAE’s vision for the future.
Tetra Pak and UPM hope to set an example for other businesses to support the UAE's sustainability goals. Tetra Pak has also partnered with UAE-based Nuitree Food to set up a dedicated plant-based manufacturing facility in the country to provide a complete end-to-end processing and packaging solution.
Tetra Pak’s role in supporting the UAE government’s vision of sustainability is manifested in the company’s strong advocacy for sustainability and its work with government entities, industry associations, and other stakeholders to promote sustainable practices and policies.
Tetra Pak is committed to driving positive change in the industry and contributing to a more sustainable future.
Q. Can you tell us more about the latest consumer trends in the UAE and ME region?
A. The challenges of the past few years including the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine have changed consumer behaviour and needs, with a focus on socialising, outdoor activities, and a desire for natural and sustainable products that promote health and well-being.
Thus, Tetra Pak has observed that the packaging industry is experiencing a growing demand for products that prioritise sustainability, consumer health, convenience, communication with children, and connectivity.
Consumers seek control over their lives in uncertain times and prefer natural foods and beverages without artificial colouring or preservatives. COVID-19 has increased interest in immune health and labels with vitamins and minerals. Fruit juices, nectars, and dairy alternatives with no added sugars are in demand.
Plant-based drinks are perceived as healthier by over half of the consumers in the UAE and KSA, and manufacturers can cater to various needs in this market. Therefore, responsible consumption and health benefits are crucial attributes for manufacturers to emphasise in their products.
Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, recognising the importance of sustainability, and placing greater emphasis on recyclable and eco-friendly packaging materials. They want products they buy to meet their needs. In fact, a sustainable business model is an obvious solution to meet market demands.
Examples of sustainable practices in the industry include sustainable packaging, recycling, and single-use plastic replacement. Tetra Pak has been working to increase the use of renewable raw materials in its packaging, like FSC certified paper fibres and plant-based polymers derived from sugar cane.
Consumers seek tangible and measurable returns, along with convenient and affordable products. Reducing size may be a solution to make Food and Beverage products more affordable. On-the-go versions of products can be an innovative way to adapt to current consumer needs, as snacking and eating on-the-go become more popular.
Connected packaging is the next area of innovation for manufacturers, as a significant portion of shopping opportunities are initiated online and retail sales are digitally impacted.
Being able to guide consumers online through informative captions, games, or shopping lists is appreciated and targeted. The potential of connected packaging for the future is unknown, making it a worthwhile area for exploration.
Children's Food and Beverage products need to be packaged in a fun and exciting way to keep them interested, making it essential to talk to kids through products. Developing a packaging design that appeals to both the child and the parent or caregiver is challenging but offers opportunities for creativity and innovation.
Q. Can you tell us more about the role Tetra Pak played at Expo 2020 and how are you taking sustainability initiatives forward?
A. As an official partner to the Sweden Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, Tetra Pak put emphasis on promoting its commitment to sustainability by showcasing its innovative and sustainable packaging solutions such as water carton packaging and furniture made from recycled packaging such as tables and podiums.
Tetra Pak attracted visitors to dive into its sustainability journey and learn about its ambition to create the world's most sustainable food and beverage packaging, as part of the "Go Nature. Go Carton” journey. Visitors were allowed to learn more about Tetra Pak's approach to campaigns and sustainability via QR codes attached to tree trunks.
The company also encouraged adults to act for a sustainable future and educated children through fun and engaging board games. The main theme of the Expo was "Connecting Hearts, Creating the Future" while the theme of the Swedish Pavilion is "Forest".