Packagers Certified for Forest Diligence, But How About Waste?
Some good news for the world’s forests: assurance that along the entire supply chain, products from Tetra Pak, the world’s leading food processing and packaging company, support forest management with environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable practices. The company produces tetrahedron-shaped paper cartons coated with plastic.
Last October, the Swedish corporation launched what’s believed to be the food industry’s first carton made entirely from plant-based, renewable packaging materials. The company said the new Tetra Rex carton was the first to use certified paperboard along with bio-based low-density polyethylene films and bio-based high-density polyethylene caps. According to environmental leader.com, both of these plastic products are derived from bioethanol produced using sugarcane, a very common but dense, thirsty, and soil-degrading crop.
Tetra Pak’s sustainable process has now been acknowledged in bulk by the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent, nongovernment nonprofit established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC defines essential social and environmental criteria for forest management and certifies forest products. The board of the organization includes members from the World Wildlife Fund – US, Guanacaste Dry Forest Fund, Dogwood Alliance, Pacific Forest Trust, Green Mountain Club, The Watershed Research and Training Center, Northwest Connections, International Paper, Domtar Paper Company, Seven Islands Land Company, and Kimberly-Clark Professional.
The decision to approve Tetra Pak’s chain of custody is one of the FSC’s largest multi-site certifications. The standards board has been in the process of reviewing and revising its Chain of Custody Standard (FSC-STD-40-004) over the past two years. Tetra Pak’s new status covers all the company’s 92 wood fiber-converting plants and market companies.
Says Mario Abreu, Tetra Pak’s global vice president for environment:
“Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the products they buy, expecting businesses to help them make better choices. As a major user of paperboard, we feel it’s our responsibility to do what we can to help improve the management of the world’s forests. Our customers now have an opportunity to demonstrate their support for responsible forestry anywhere in the world.”
Tetra Pak certainly makes points for ensuring low environmental impacts in terms of its consistently reliable use of forestry products. It also deserves credit for using renewable resources rather than fossil fuel to produce its plastic components. Carbon sequestration through sugarcane growth is said to involve roughly 2 kg of CO2 per kg of polyethylene produced, counting the CO2 emitted during production. In these respects, the Tetra Pak product certainly improves on its predecessors. However, the source of the plastic may be relatively unimportant compared to the historic difficulties of recycling it and its huge impact as waste. For more on this topic, see previous Planetsave articles here.