Is Tetra Pak recyclable?

Joao Carvalho
January 12, 2023
An image of Tetra Pak signage in an article on whether Tetra Pak is recyclable

Many people may associate the term “Tetra Pak” with a kind of carton package, often made from layers of cardboard, plastic sheets, and several other components. 

However, Tetra Pak is the name of the Swedish-Swiss company which first developed these cartons. 

Notably, Tetra Pak is a worldwide leader in carton packaging sales, with over 190 billion units of its products sold in 160 countries, resulting in over €11 billion in sales.

That said, as sustainability continues to be a key issue in the coffee industry, many are wondering whether these cartons are recyclable. 

To learn more about Tetra Pak and how it can be recycled, I spoke with Marwa Gomaa, Tetra Pak’s Regional Communications Director for Africa. 

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Tetra Pak, sustainability, and the coffee industry

Founded in 1951 in Lund, Sweden, by Ruben Rausing, Tetra Pak pioneered aseptic technology.

This allowed the company to package food and beverage products in a commercially sterile environment. 

This benefited both manufacturers and consumers as it provided products with a longer shelf life and allowed them to be distributed further. 

Additionally, it allowed for many products to be stored without the need for refrigeration or preservatives. Even the nutritional value, flavour, texture, and colour of the product remained protected when packaged in Tetra Pak’s solutions.

As a result, Tetra Pak solutions are used to store different beverages and are widely used in the ready to drink (RTD) coffee industry.

Tetra Pak is often used to pack individual portions of RTD coffee for immediate consumption, or larger volumes that can be taken home or used to share a drink.

An advantage of using Tetra Pak for coffee-based beverages is the storage process is made without contact with air, which can lead to oxidation. Therefore, it can preserve the beverage’s attributes for longer. 

That said, more consumers are aware of the environmental impact of the products they purchase, as well as the packaging. 

Studies done in 2019 show 53% of consumers were more likely to consider a brand that’s packaging has excellent environmental credentials – 10% higher than in 2017. 

Marwa explains that, as part of Tetra Pak’s sustainability approach, the company undertakes a materiality assessment every two years by applying the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) principle of materiality. 

“This ensures we keep up to date with changing sustainability priorities,” she says. “And we continue to focus on the areas that deliver the greatest positive impact for our customers, our business, society, and the environment.” 

“Our brand promise is to ‘protect what is good’ and it drives every decision we make,” she states. “It is the reason we continue to push ourselves and innovate with our customers to realise our vision and commitment to making food safe and available everywhere.”

Marwa explains Tetra Pak takes active responsibility for everything it does. “Through our dedication, expertise and collaborations, we are continuously advancing our efforts to ensure the well-being of generations to come,” she says.

An image of a coffee consumer folding Tetra Pak paper carton packaging for recycling in an article on whether Tetra Pak is recyclable

Is Tetra Pak recyclable after all?

Tetra Pak carton packages are collected and recycled worldwide, where waste management and recycling are in place. 

This is according to Marwa, who says the brand’s paper-based carton packages are already recyclable where adequate collection, sorting and recycling infrastructures are in place. 

“By recycling materials, we reduce waste, save resources, and contribute to lower climate impact,” she adds. 

More so, Marwa offers consumers advice on how to ensure their Tetra Pak cartons are recycled.

First, customers must ensure the carton is completely empty.

Marwa also advises that consumers remove the cap, but do not throw it away. 

Second, customers must loosen the corners of the carton in order to flatten it. Then the cap can be screwed back on the carton, and the entire package can be placed in the nearest recycling bin. 

Marwa says recycling is a major aspect of Tetra Pak’s work. 

“We are committed to driving and facilitating recycling around the world,” she says. “We do this by working, wherever possible, with waste management companies, recyclers, municipalities, industry associations, and equipment suppliers.”

More so, the brand continually pushes its recycling initiatives. Depending on local market conditions, Marwa explains that Tetra Pa applies the respective actions and measures. 

“We develop awareness campaigns to educate consumers on the fact that our carton packages are recyclable,” she says. “We also work to improve collection and recycling infrastructure.”

Breaking down Tetra Pak’s circular economy principles

Marwa explains Tetra Pak’s production guidelines are based on a circular model. 

“We start with plant-based materials, produce carbon-neutral carton packages, recycle them, and design them with maximum paper-based content,” she says.  

In this sense, she enlists the company’s priorities, with the first being raw materials and sourcing. Tetra Pak’s paper-based carton packages must be made from fully renewable or recyclable materials that are sourced in a responsible way.

Second is production and distribution. This refers to carbon-neutral production with minimal environmental impact.

Tetra Pak’s third priority is food protection and consumption. In essence, the brand wants to create packaging that makes food safe and available without the need for refrigeration, backed by solutions that ensure traceability and reduce food waste.

Another priority is obviously recycling. Tetra Pak ensures a fully recyclable package with a supporting collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure everywhere to keep materials in use.

Last is the package’s end-of-life. Tetra Pak prioritises reducing the use of plastics and using materials with a reduced impact on nature.

An image of a Tetra Pak paper carton package in an article on whether Tetra Pak is recyclable

At MTPack, sustainability is also a keyword that guides us and we aim to provide you with the best solutions for packaging your coffee. 

We are able to get all of our sustainability claims verified by independent inspectors so you can be sure of your purchases and know you are doing your part to lessen your carbon footprint.

Additionally, we provide a selection of completely recyclable coffee packaging alternatives produced from renewable resources like kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an eco-friendly PLA lining, all of which reduce waste and support a circular economy.

Micro-roasters wishing to maintain agility while showing brand identification and an environmental commitment can also take advantage of our low minimum order quantities (MOQs).

More so, our design team is available to help you customise your coffee packaging from top to bottom.

For more information on recyclable coffee packaging made from sustainable materials, contact our team

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