Throw it in the Rubbish

Throw it in the Rubbish

Polluted creek in Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Tetra Pak is the dominant brand in the global food packaging industry. Flip over any of your organic soup or fresh juice cartons, and chances are you may see Tetra Pak’s tiny logo across the bottom. A self-proclaimed green company, Tetra Pak states they are committed to sustainability and recycling’and yes, their products are fully recyclable. However, you can’t just throw out the Tetra Pak carton with your normal recycling’they’re a special type of packaging that requires a special type of technology. And for this, the company must work with local councils to set up Tetra Pak-specific recycling facilities.

This month, Tetra Pak released details of their upcoming marketing project: milk consumed by the poor people of developing nations. There’s an industry-projected 30 percent growth in milk consumption over the next decade within the developing world, and Tetra Pak has eyed low-income dairy consumers as their “next big opportunity.”

Currently the majority of milk in developing nations is produced by local farmers and sold unpackaged. However, with the current pattern of dairy industrialization, Tetra Pak projects that packaged corporate milk will overtake unpackaged local milk by 2014. And the vast majority of this packaging will be kid-centered, fun, small, single-serving cartons, which the rural poor and lower middle class can afford. Considering the 30 percent growth in milk consumption, in combination with the 2.7 billion low-income consumers making up Tetra Pak’s new market’this is a staggering amount of single-serving, brightly colored milk cartons.

For anyone who is acquainted with the developing world, colorful rubbish mounds made up of plastic bags, single-serving biscuit packages, and water bottles, piled on the sides of roads or in giant wastelands bordering the city, oftentimes being grazed upon by cows, or monkeys, or even people, is a familiar site. In regions with inadequate waste control, let alone recycling capabilities’let alone the specifically made Tetra Pak recycling capabilities‘where will all these billions of new single-serving milk cartons go?

…..Out the window, and wherever the wind blows them I suppose.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Bachhuber