All three manufacturers agree that aseptic carton packaging plays an important role in reducing food waste and minimising the carbon footprint.

Ms Gasperini points out: “Aseptic packaging does not require refrigeration and thus saves energy in the storage of the product. Food waste is a primary concern and aseptic packaging helps to reduce food waste by allowing for extended shelf life, whilst keeping the product fresh and maintaining nutritional value. Beverage cartons are lightweight and easy to transport.”

“Complemented by resealable closures, these packages can further help extend the life of products and reduce waste in the home,” Mr Krashak adds.

Mr Gierow highlights independent life cycle assessments that he claims have shown a better environmental performance by aseptic cartons than glass, HDPE or PET bottles, pouches and cans.

“Aseptic cartons are made from 70-80 per cent liquid packaging board, which comes from wood. This means the LPB in our packs has a very low carbon footprint compared with other packaging materials. Secondly, the efficient shape of aseptic cartons means that after filling they can be stacked together closely with minimal wasted space. A trailer of filled carton packs carries around 95 per cent content with just five per cent of the space taken by the packaging. This makes cartons more efficient to transport than round shapes, such as bottles, resulting in fewer trucks on the roads, less fuel used and less space needed to store the products.”

Overcoming challenges with innovations

With consumers increasingly conscious of the problems associated with packaging waste, circularity has emerged as a major focus for innovation.

Elopak’s director of strategic marketing & product management, Paul Sweeting highlights the Pure-Pak® Aseptic system for UHT products and the EPS120A filling machine from Elopak: “In August 2017 Elopak launched Pure-Pak® cartons with Natural Brown Board, giving a natural feel and look to the carton, whilst removing layers and improving environmental impact. Consumers instinctively choose this as a more sustainable product and some customers have converted from plastic bottles to using this package. The Pure-Pak® gable top carton is now being used in long life milk and plant-based beverage applications in addition to juices and still drinks. The Pure-Pak® carton offers a premium image and the best pouring characteristics.”

Mr Gierow is keen to point out the challenge to make packs even more sustainable, and efforts are being made to also source the other key materials – aluminium and polymers – responsibly.

“Certifications for the polymers and aluminium materials are not as well established as FSCTM but we’ve been exploring suitable options.”

He highlights that the polymers used for laminating the paperboard and making the spout for SIGNATURE PACK – which he claims is the world’s first aseptic carton pack with a clear link to 100 per cent plant-based renewable materials – originate from renewable European wood sources and are certified according to ISCC PLUS (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) or CMS 71 (TÜV SÜD certification standard) respectively, via a mass balance system.

“We’re also at the forefront of efforts to drive a new certification programme from the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) – the ASI Performance Standard Material Stewardship Principle. SIG is the first in the industry to achieve certification to this programme, which is designed to recognise and collaboratively foster responsible production, sourcing and stewardship of aluminium.”

All three companies emphasise that their cartons are fully recyclable, as well as sourced from FSCTM certified wood. But how many cartons today actually get recycled? The latest figures indicate that levels across Europe linger at 48 per cent. The technical challenge, of course, is the laminated layers of paper and barrier materials, which can be hard to separate in an economically viable way. In this context, Tetra Pak’s collaboration with Veolia (discussed in our interview with Laurent Auguste in the previous edition of Packaging Europe) will be of critical importance.