The Challenge of Sustainable Packaging

Lukáš Mikloš, CE Lead Packaging Manager at Tesco, made a promise during his PackBox presentation: His company’s packaging will be fully recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Tesco recognises sustainable packaging as a hot topic of our time. In his opening remarks, Lukáš Mikloš asked: “Why are we doing this?” His answer: “We not only want to raise customer awareness, but we also feel the obligation to meet our environmental responsibility.”

By 2025, all packaging at Tesco will be fully recyclable or reusable, he announced. To be more precise, all paper and board used will be 100% sustainably sourced by 2025, and the packaging weight is expected to be halved by that year.

Within CE Packaging, the aim is to eliminate all hard-to-recycle materials from Tesco’s packaging by 2020. Moreover, single-use plastics are intended to be eliminated ahead of the 2021 legal deadline and usage in remaining areas is to be reduced. Finally, paper-based consumer packaging must be sustainably sourced by 2020.

What Tesco intends to achieve is a closed loop packaging plan: Each and every material used in packaging is going to be reused or recycled according to the cradle-to-cradle principle. In order to do so, considerations of structural design, the avoidance of overpackaging, aspects of certification, and questions regarding the recycled content have to be taken into account.

The material preferences are defined by using the traffic light model (red, amber, and green materials; RAG). Red materials have the highest priority in terms of finding a suitable replacement. This can be achieved by, for instance, changing the base material, removing a component, finding an alternative supplier, or delisting the product.

However, this aim imposes some major challenges when it comes to food packaging: “Sometimes, material alternatives are missing,” said Mikloš. “Furthermore, the shelf life of products and direct food contact have to be taken into account (for instance, the necessity for high barrier properties).” Grease and fat may even pollute the base material, especially when it is paper-based. Tesco also takes into account aspects such as “Local heritage packaging”, i.e. a certain style of packaging is preferred by consumers, and changing it might require a change in customer perception as well. Higher costs may also be an issue.

“Tesco doesn’t have its own production facilities,” he concluded. “Therefore, we need to cooperate with customers, product and packaging material suppliers, waste and recycling providers and governmental bodies.”


Source: Martin Hirschmann