Image courtesy Tetra Pak International
How green are tetrapak food cartons?
19th January, 2010
They're becoming more and more common - wrapped around everything from milk to chickpeas. But just how environmentally friendly are composite cartons compared to the good, old-fashioned tin or jar?
Over the last couple of years, customers buying chopped tomatoes at Sainsbury’s supermarkets will have noticed a change: this staple of kitchen cupboards has swapped the good ol’ tin can for cartons. Premium chopped tomatoes went first in November 2007, and the basic range followed last month. So why did Sainsbury’s do it?
British consumers use about four billion cartons every year: they come in all shapes and sizes, can hold anything from fruit juice to beans, soups or milk and are as conspicuous as tin cans or glass jars. Many big brands use them (Innocent Drinks, Ribena, Tropicana, Covent Garden soups, etc); Tetra Pak, the leading carton manufacturer, is even a household name – although the same can’t be said of its main competitors, Norwegian company Elopak and Swiss outfit SIG Combibloc.
Cartons are made mostly (about 75 per cent) from wood. Aseptic cartons (those that don’t need refrigeration) then use a layer of aluminium to preserve the product and layers of plastic to seal the container. Non-aseptic cartons (for fresh products with shorter shelf lives) don’t need aluminium.
Because of this multi-layer...
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