SWITZERLAND – Swedish-Swiss multinational food packaging and processing company, Tetra Pak has announced plans to test a fibre-based barrier as a replacement for the aluminium layer in its food cartons for improved climate impact and recyclability.

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

According to the packaging leader, the aluminium layer typically used in cartons for food safety contributes one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions linked to its base materials, despite being thinner than a human hair.

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 reportedly favour aluminium-free cartons.

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

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

According to Davide Braghiroli, Product Director for Packaging Materials at Tetra Pak: “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.

“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.”

The packaging giant has a long-term roadmap to develop aseptic packaging that is fully renewable, recyclable and carbon-neutral.

This initiative underscores the company’s approach to designing its packaging for recycling, increasing the paper content and supporting end-user expectations.

Based on recent global research, approximately 40% of consumers confirmed they would be more motivated to sort for recycling if packages were made entirely from paperboard and had no plastic or aluminium, report PackagingInsights.

“Early results suggest that the package with a fibre-based barrier will offer substantial CO2 reduction when compared to traditional aseptic cartons, together with comparable shelf life and food protection properties,” explains Gilles Tisserand, Vice President for Climate & Biodiversity at Tetra Pak.

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