An interview with Erik Lindroth, Environment Director Nordics, Tetra Pak. A circular economy needs bio-based, renewable materials

Carton materials to be recycled

“Tetra Pak contributes to a circular economy by using renewable materials, sourcing materials responsibly and increasing recycling. At least 75% of our packages use renewable materials,starting from a strong starting point, with the  main material in all our packages being paperboard”. To say this in this exclusive interview with The BioJournal is Erik Lindroth, Environment Director in Northern Europe, at Tetra Pak, the multinational food packaging company headquartered in Lund, Sweden. Lindroth has previously worked with environment in Tetra Pak both on a regional and global level since 2008. He has a marketing and commercial background, as Marketing Director and Commercial Director for one of Tetra Pak’s product systems, as well as holding an MSc in Economics and Business Administration from Lund University.

Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

 

Erik Lindroth

Erik Lindroth

What is the bioeconomy from your point of view? And what does it represent for the packaging industry? 

The bioeconomy is the part of the economy that uses renewable, biological resources (biomass), or bioprocesses, for the production offood,energy and materials in a sustainable way. We see the global bioeconomy as an increasingly important part of the solution to ensure a better future – our planet’s, our customers and our own.

An economy based on renewable materials represents a huge opportunity for the packaging industry. In fact, at Tetra Pak we are seeing a growing demand from customers and consumers for environmentally sound products. Consumers feel a sense of urgency for action on environment – over 80% believe that the focus on environmental issues will increase over the next five years. The value of the bioeconomy to the EU is 18.6 Million jobs and €2.2 Trillion in turnover Packaging companies can take advantage of this market opportunity by creating innovative ‘plantbased’ products.

At Tetra Pak our ultimate goal is to make our packages entirely from renewable materials, from sustainable sourcing of the paperboard used to make our cartons, to the plastic used to make the cap and protective layers to recycling.

 

What are the main strenghts of bioeconomy in Sweden?

Sweden, in comparison to many other countries, has a good starting position driven by natural geographic conditions, traditional industry and infrastructure for being able to convert to a biobased economy.

The Swedish Government has also officially committed to a “circular and biobased economy” for several years.

 

How is the bioeconomy supported by the government?

On 8 September 2011 the Swedish Government commissioned Formas, in consultation with VINNOVA and the Swedish Energy Agency, to prepare a national strategy for the generation of a bio-based economy and sustainable development.

And what is the perception of the bioeconomy by the public opinion?

In general, Swedish consumers are positively disposed towards paper-based products and our research shows that carton packages are clearly seen as the environmentally strongest packaging option for liquid food products.

 

 

A selection of Tetra Pak carton packages with bio-based caps

 

Sweden, as other Scandinavian countries, appears to be the ideal place for the bioeconomy. But really there are no weaknesses?

In Sweden, the circular bioeconomy is regarded as important because it contributes both to achieving environmental objectives and to inspire new business opportunities. Yet, direct governmental strategies are still limited, in comparison to the other two Scandinavian countries.

How is Tetra Pak interconnecting bioeconomy and circular economy?

At Tetra Pak we recognise that a circular economy needs bio-based, renewable materials for several reasons;

  • first, only renewable materials that are responsibly sourced secure raw material supplies in the long-term since plants and biomass constantly regrow or regenerate. It is important to recognise that a circular economy needs a constant inflow of raw materials to function and grow.
  • second, replacing finite with renewable materials helps to achieve a circular and low-carbon economy. Renewable sources act as carbon sinks and with that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • thirdly, innovation in renewable materials creates jobs and sustainable growth in Europe.

 

Tetra Pak contributes to a circular economy by using renewable materials, sourcing materials responsibly and increasing recycling. At least 75% of our packages use renewable materials,starting from a strong starting point, with the  main material in all our packages being paperboard. As world’s largest consumer of paperboard, we commit to obtaining our materials from sustainably managed forests. All the paperboard we use comes from responsibly sourced wood with a FSC-certified chain of custody. We were also the first to introduce biobased plastic for our caps and protective layers. Since 2011, Tetra Pak has produced more than 6.4billion caps made from sugar cane derived plastic.

Importantly, our use of biobased materials doesn’t impact the recyclability of our products. All Tetra Pak carton packages are recyclable. Over 40 billion Tetra Pak cartons were recycled in 2015 alone. Our goal is to double the recycling rate of our cartons to 40% by 2020. We are actively engaged in establishing recycling programmes for consumer packaging around the globe – working with a variety of stakeholder, from schools to governments.

 

 

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