Elisabeth Comere

Elisabeth Comere

11 September, 2012
Eco packaging
Director of Environmental and Governmental Affairs, Tetra Pak Inc.

Though we may not think packaging is eco-friendly, it is a necessity in life and we can make packaging as benign to the environment to the best of our abilities through strategies such as minimizing unnecessary packaging, using recycled content and creating packaging from materials such as bamboo.  Tetra Pak is a packaging company that is taking giant leaps forward in making packaging greener and the company even aims to produce 100% renewable packaging.  We talk to Elisabeth Comere, Director of Environmental and Governmental Affairs, Tetra Pak Inc. about how her company is taking giant steps towards waste reduction and the latest trends in sustainable packaging.
Ecozine: Could you share more about what Tetra-Pak does?
Elisabeth: Tetra-Pak is the world leader in packaging solutions.  We produce cartons and have a large market Asia, with a strong presence in China.  While I focus on the US and Canadian markets, we run our business globally, with sustainability policy teams throughout the world.
Ecozine: With differing regulatory frameworks targeting waste and recycling in different countries, including laggards especially in developing countries, how does Tetra-Pak adapt its waste and recycling policies in different countries?
Elisabeth: There are definitely different frameworks when it comes to waste management.  In mature markets like Europe, there is legislation already focusing on end of life of packaging.  Similar policies have been introduced awhile ago in Japan, requiring industry to collect and recycle products like cartons.  We have to look at local conditions before considering developing strategies on collection and recycling.  In countries with such legislation, it means that there is already infrastructure there and the industry is organized.  Whereas in other countries like Mexico, they won’t have specific legislation, but we still do recycling on a voluntary basis by working with other stakeholders to leverage companies, suppliers, customers, and organizations that bring industry to the table.  It really depends on the market, but legislation can be a driver to make collection and recycling happen.
Ecozine: Could you share more about the success of the recycling pilot programs?
Elisabeth: In the US, we took the lead in developing a strategy on a voluntary basis to drive collection of cartons.  In the biggest cities now, there are programs to accept cartons, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and Dallas.  Some have been reluctant at the beginning, and big population centres like Chicago and New York have some way to go, but programs have started in small communities, and we are confident that state-wide programs will happen.  We need commitment coming from companies and with alignment of companies, we can run programs together.  We also need to have financial commitment, because big successes not only require municipalities, sorters, and infrastructure, but we also need to develop markets for the materials.  For example, with cartons, they are now converted into tissue paper and office paper.  With local technologies, we can work in partnership with local authorities and integrate cartons into existing recycling programs.  Our commitment is clear and we have recycling goals of 40%, but each market needs to decide on its own strategy, along with partners to achieve these goals.
Ecozine: What are some of the ways that Tetra-Pak is integrating eco materials into its products?
Elisabeth: For our cartons, they are made with 70% paperboard, 5% aluminum, and the rest is made from plastics.  For our Strategy 2020, we want to be able to make a carton that is only made of renewable resources.  We aim to achieve this by increasing the share of renewables and improving the way we source these materials by making sure that the carton fibre comes from well managed forests that keep growing, substituting plastics to green polymers like sugar cane, and substituting aluminum with other materials.  It’s really an innovation process, and we need to look at specific tools to see what’s best.  We also need to look at things in a holistic way, for example, looking at the lifecycle of a product, not only the end of its life and factors include how we source materials, transportation, energy, and working with customers to help them reduce their own carbon and water footprints.  We take a broad approach, but at the same time, we are cautious and don’t want to say that we only promote sustainability but at the same time, we also optimize the functionality and performance of packaging.  Deliver food in a safe way to consumers is our number one priority.  We have strong ambition and a clear plan and strategy to deploy more sustainable products by 2020.
Ecozine: Could you share more about Tetra-Pak’s Strategy 2020?
Elisabeth: Strategy 2020 is our climate goal in which we are capping our carbon dioxide emissions at 2010 levels.  Despite the growth of our business, we won’t be emitting more carbon even though we will produce more by 2020.  We’ve been innovative, and have overachieved 10% more than we were supposed to at this stage.  This was done only by focusing on our own operations, such as improving energy efficiency practices.  To achieve our goal by 2020, we aim to be using renewable energy whenever feasible, reducing emissions from our equipment and filling machines, and making sure that what we put on the market saves energy, water and waste.   We want to drive excellence through our portfolio of services and products.
For more information about Tetra Pak’s environmental policy, visit:

By: Ecozine Staff


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