Tetra Pak has introduced a new collaborative innovation model with leading paperboard producers, a move aimed at tackling the food packaging industry's sustainability challenges.

The traditional operating model of a linear supply chain has changed, the companies say, and a new partnership ecosystem model is emerging, where the industry works in collaboration. This method hopes to bring together not only producers and suppliers, but also research institutions, universities, and start-ups in an attempt to find solutions.

The challenges the industry intends to tackle include removing thin layers of plastic and aluminium and replacing them with plant or wood fibre-based materials, developing a renewable alternative to the plastic straw, and improving the recyclability of packages.

According to Tetra Pak’s latest research, the global food supply chain system is responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a third of all food is lost or wasted somewhere in the supply chain, fossil fuel-based materials need to be phased out, and significant improvements are needed to the way packaging is dealt with after use.

Laurence Mott, executive VP for development and engineering at Tetra Pak, says: "We are joining forces with our strategic partners and paperboard producers to find solutions. It's possible to make a completely sustainable package, but you have to make it safe. And if you can't make it at scale, you can't minimise food waste, and you can't serve a growing global population. In order to bring those three things together, it takes very strong collaboration."

Hannu Kasurinen, executive vice president of packaging at Stora Enso, adds: "We trust, we share, we learn together. Our best innovators collaborate, and we move forward, and we innovate. Sometimes we fail, but then we learn from those failures. We have grown much closer to each other because we have the same strategic objectives – which are good for people and the planet."

Malin Ljung Eiborn, head of sustainability and public affairs at BillerudKorsnäs, concludes: "The vision is 100% fibre-based and fully recyclable packaging, where plastic and aluminium are not needed anymore. We still have, of course, some steps to go before we are there from a technical perspective. But we work as one project team on this because the only way that we can solve them is to do this together."