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Tetra Pak trials removing aluminium layer in bid to crack recyclability challenge

The Swedish-Swiss drinks packaging giant Tetra Pak produced 193 billion of its ubiquitous cartons last year, but despite on-pack labels in many markets saying its packages are recyclable, globally only about a quarter of them were actually recycled, meaning that three in four ended up in landfill, incineration or washed up in the world’s waterways. Even in recycling king Europe, the recycling rate averaged only about 50%.

Raquel Noboa, chief executive of Irish environmental education consultancy Fifty Shades Greener, is one of many commentators who have been highly critical of Tetra Pak for failing to deliver on its recyclability claims. “The best thing we can do is avoid buying and disposing of Tetra Pak, where possible,” she advises.

Tetra Pak points out that its processing and packaging technology has made it possible to protect perishable foods without refrigeration and enable even remote corners of the world safe access to nutritious food. But it has struggled to lift stubbornly low recycling rates due to its packages’ multi-layered design, comprising paper, plastic and a thin layer of aluminium, which plays a critical food safety role.

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