Norway-based Elopak joined forces with UPM Biofuels and Dow to offer 100% renewable cartons that are both recyclable and responsibly sourced. The improved Pure-Pak® product reduces the carton’s carbon footprint by 20%.
While Elopak as a company recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, its signature Pure-Pak® product has hit its centenary. The remarkable staying power of the paperboard gable top carton is, thanks to its lightweight, user-friendly, and product protection properties, valued the world over by food and beverage manufacturers.
The package is used daily by consumers in over 100 countries for beverages and liquid foods of all kinds, but is perhaps best known for keeping milk and juice fresh and safe. Elopak sells around 15 billion cartons a year to more than 80 markets worldwide.
While the carton was already mostly made from renewable wood-based sources and was fully recyclable, Elopak were keen to push product development as far as it could go to create an entirely wood-based carton.
“Packaging is seen by many people as one of the worst offenders for environmental impact, but it’s needed to keep food fresh. Without packaging, there would be more food waste, so we have a responsibility to make the necessary packaging as sustainable as possible.
It’s an ongoing process of continuous improvement,” explains Marianne Groven, Interim Director, Environment at Elopak.
How cartons can be entirely wood-based
UPM BioVerno naphtha made from crude tall oil, a residue of pulp production, is the key ingredient in creating a more environmentally-friendly cap and coating for the Pure-Pak® product - but collaboration is required to create the finished product. Dow first converts UPM BioVerno naphtha into renewable resins that are used to create renewable polyethylene.
Elopak coats the carton with the polyethylene and also uses the product to create sustainable caps, completing a fully renewable carton.
Every tonne of UPM’s wood-based naphtha that Dow converts into renewable plastics reduces one tonne of fossil raw materials used. The sustainability of the entire value chain is verified, and that’s important to Elopak.
“The fact that UPM could offer us a certified product is the key factor for us,” explains Groven.
“Because of the cracking and mixing processes that take place during production, we need the certification in place to prove the entire value chain is sustainable. They were able to provide raw data to us, so we could calculate the CO2 reduction.”
While the 20% reduction in emissions may seem modest, on average 75% of the carton is already made of renewable paperboard. Groven is keen to emphasize other benefits beyond cutting carbon emissions:
“It’s important for us that we are using renewable resources that replenish over time. Leaving the world with resources for future generations was an important motivation for us to make this change.”
TEXT David Nikel
IMAGES Janne Lehtinen and Elopak