Should Barbados Ban Tetra-Pak Containers?

A few weeks ago I was doing some Google research on those wayward billionaires and Tetra-Pak heirs, Hans and Eva Rausing, when I stumbled across a couple of articles at Temas Blog about environmental problems with Tetra-Pak cartons.

It seems that as good as the packaging is for keeping food fresh, the darn things are almost indestructible when put into landfills. If you bury them, they will still be like new a few hundred years from now – and still doing their job too well, keeping other garbage from rotting and breaking down because they create waterproof pockets and layers in the landfill. Recycling Tetra-Paks is difficult, requires special machinery and leaves huge piles of materials that have dubious value in manufacturing new products – thus defeating the final step in “recycling”.

Our friend at Temas Blog laid out how the Brazilian state of Paraná got fed up with Tetra-Pak and issued an ultimatum in May of 2007…

In a meeting held in Curitiba in the middle of May, the government of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná gave Tetra-Pak executives (including the Vice President for Central and South America) 60 days to come up with their own proposal to solve the post-consumer waste problem in that state associated with their long-life (aseptic) packaging — or face drastic action by the government, such as banning the sale of such packaging within the state.

Faced with the loss of a major South American market, Tetra-Pak caved in and cooperated on a major programme to mitigate the environmental impact of it’s product. According to Temas Blog, the Brazillian government sees it this way…

The State Environment Secretary, Rasca Rodrigues, declared that the point of the deal was not to make Tetra Pak solely responsible for the waste created by its packaging, but instead to ensure that the company was fully involved in the state’s efforts to realize its Zero Waste goal, particularly to design programs that feature “social inclusion”

What About Barbados?

As pointed out time and time again on this and other Bajan blogs, we as a society could be far more responsible when it comes to disposal of garbage. I am often shamed when taking visiting friends on drives across the island because you never know what ugly pile of garbage you will find in the middle of an otherwise beautiful view. There’s nothing like the beauty of a cane field ready for cutting against a blue blue sky… and then you see the dumped rusting stove or bags of stinking household kitchen waste.

The answer to our problem is not extorting a million dollars from Tetra-Pak – but producers of hard to dispose of products like Tetra-Pak could be part of funding a necessary change in our culture. Let’s face it folks… we don’t have much to sell to the tourists on this island except our natural beauty, and lately that beauty is becoming difficult to see with walls of condos blocking the seaview and garbage piles taking care of the rest of the island.

So take a note, Minister of the Environment: the precedent has been set by Brazil. If Tetra-Pak and other manufacturers of environmentally unfriendly packaging want to continue making billions, they should be giving something back to Barbados and assisting in cleaning up their products.

Further Reading

Temas Blog

Tetra-Pak Chooses To Deal

Tetra-Pak Given 60 Days to Propose Packaging Waste Solution… Or Else!

Barbados Free Press

Barbados Upper Crust Members Hans Kristian Rausing and wife Eva Rausing Charged With Drug Offenses


Filed under Barbados, Environment

25 responses to “Should Barbados Ban Tetra-Pak Containers?

  1. reality check

    Any child in Europe and North America can tell their parents about reducing their footprint and the process of recycling, reusing and reducing.

    What are our schools doing to teach children about these basic concepts aside from putting dumps in ecologically unstable and fragile areas?

  2. Thanks for the kind mention, folks. You might be interested to read the update I just posted:

    Looks like, one year later, Tetra Pak is doing quite a lot to make the Brazilian state of Paraná happy and stave off similar problems with other Brazilian states. But as I said in this latest post, if they can do this for Brazil (including the Google map of drop-off centers and helping local recycling co-cops handle aseptic cartons), why not — and when — for the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean markets in which their packaging enjoys growing market share?

  3. Thomas Gresham

    OK. Tetra pak need to do more research to make their cartoons more landfill friendly – or better still a new competitor should bring out a more eco-friendly cartoon.
    But the issue is also what the alternatives are.

    Before Tetra Pak we used more plastic bottles which are worse. Environmentalists prefer glass, but then you have to figure in the environmental cost of transporting the extra weight.

    The economists solution is to charge the packaging manufacturers the cost of recycling the containers – that would incentivise them to come up with better solutions.

  4. art

    Surely to goodness we need to reduce the 1,000 tons per day. That dump grows at a very fast pace. Who knows what’s in it.

    Plastic and glass are both largely recyclable. The tetra pak is a combination. Is it recyclable? Why did Pine Hill switch-
    is it ……better…..cheaper…..incinerable…..?

    What are those buildings going up at the……..
    ………………..transfer station……..
    beside Mangove Pond?

    Are we aware that a tax was just brought for each and every plastic bag used in supermarkets in the UK? Customer pays.
    Are we aware that Counterpart Caribbean (the Future Centre) sells cloth shopping bags for $5 apiece? That’s a good deal for a quality reusable shopping bag. Why not give them a call: 425-2020

    We are not aware. We need to become aware.
    Those aware do not care.

    Compare and contrast decomposition with incineration.

    It’s time to talk recycling with a view towards actually doing it like developed countries are supposed to.

  5. Thomas, there’s a alot to be said in favor of utilizing aseptic packaging for things that you want to have long shelf life, such as UHT milk and fruit juices. Lord knows back when I lived in the Dominican Republic and we got hit by Hurricane Georges, I was grateful to have it for my kids’ milk for those weeks we were without power to run the refrigerator.

    I know some environmentalists still advocate refillable glass for all beverages, but I think that in most nations in the Americas that age is gone for milk and going (if not gone) for most fruit juices.

    As for whether plastic containers are worse, well, that depends in part on which resin we’re talking about, whether it is properly identified (I know some markets still don’t use the SPI numeric resin ID code) so it can be sorted, whether there is a good collection and separation mechanism in place, and whether there is a recycling market for the plastic waste involved. Not all resins sell at recycling time — mostly only PET and HDPE do.

    By the way, in the case of Barbados since 1996 you have had that 1% ad valorem “environmental levy” on the CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value of empty containers made of plastic, glass, metal or paperboard. Supposedly the revenues generated by this levy are earmarked for covering part of the cost of managing packaging waste — you might ask the government if it actually being used for that purpose, and if so, how.

    Tetra-brik’s three principal components — the aluminum foil, the plastic liner, the paperboard shell — are all recyclable. The difficulty comes in separating the materials. Machines and techniques exist that don’t cost so much and are not so complex, but they are not (yet) widely used. What Tetra Pak has done in Parana state is help recycling co-ops learn how to do it, help educate consumers on where to take their empty cartons, and help the recycling co-ops find markets for their separated materials.

    There’s lots of stuff that can be made with the separated materials. The solar water heaters made of recycled materials I featured in The Temas Blog were made in part with materials from aseptic cartons (Parana even offers a manual on how to build your own). The new waste/recycling manuals that the Zero Waste Program in Parana has produced are printed on paper made from recycled paperboard from former Tetra Pak cartons. And I don’t know the current scrap price for aluminum foil on Barbados, but aluminum packaging waste usually draws very good prices on waste exchanges — prices usually good enough to warrant export.

  6. GreenBB

    BFP next you should look at the shopping bags that SuperCenter uses and also sells– not %100 bio-degradable and not good for the landfill either. We shouldn’t be using them.

    Every single person on this island should be recycling.

  7. Sundowner

    You can also purchase the $5 bags from Redland and Brighton farmers markets .The Future Centre will take your cans/bottles/plastic for recycling. Supermarkets need to teach the staff that we don’t need shopping wrapped in so many bags before it gets to the final bag!! and not to be astonished when you present them with your own bag for filling! Think of the promotions and other supermarkets could achieve with promoting their own cloth bags, maybe they could give one to each customer with every $100 spent or some such, all that free advertising and goodwill!! Though none of this solves the tetra- pak problem, back to plastic bottles that can be recycled?

  8. GreenBB

    There is also B’s Bottle Depot in Cane Garden, near Lester Vaughn School for all recycling.

  9. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Barbados: Environmental Management

  10. J

    When is Sanitation Service Authority going to get into the business of encouraging consumers to separate and recycle? I’ve recently started separating in my own kitchen and recycling the glass and plastic. It is easy to do and the stuff that I put out for SSA now has about halved in volume. Now my bin is NEVER full, and so my yard is tidier.

    SSA can maybe encourage this on a wider scale. Maybe a separate collection day for glass and plastic which the consumer would put in separate bins or bags for collection. And because the glass and plastic has been washed/rinsed with the household dishes it is clean waste which can be kept on premises and maybe collected once per month or even once per quarter.

    Or am I being idealistic here?

  11. Sundowner

    GreenBB, B’s Bottle Depot also take cans /glass other plastic containers .
    How about BB’s supplying glass/plastic skips of some such in supermarket car parks, which the public can bring their cans etc for recycling.or am I being idealistic as well??

  12. Sundowner

    Sorry that should have read ‘B’s Bottle Depot supplying skips not BB!!

  13. Thewhiterabbit

    Tetra-Pak has always been a recycler’s nightmare. Getting the stuff apart can be done, but at what cost, and why? Just throw the stuff into the local incinerator, use the heat produced to make electricity and reduce our imported oil. None, exactly none, of the arguments against incineration make any sense in the world of modern systems of fluid bed reactors and other such approaches. Other than getting our power from geothermal sources on nearby islands, incineration of garbage is the most cost-effective compromise between

  14. GreenBB

    Sundowner I was there today, it was great (I mean B’s) they took everything right down to those trays that beef and chicken come from, shampoo bottles, you name it. They will even take my wine bottles 😉 I had about 1 barrel full…wish I had known about them sooner!

  15. GreenBB

    I just read that back I had one barrel full in total, not 1 barrel of wine bottles!

  16. Sundowner

    Green BB , Was going to ask where the party was!! I didn’t realise they took the ‘meat trays as well, will save them as well from now on! I think as far as plastic goes, if its got that little triangle stamped on it, they take it.

  17. art

    Great you guys. B’s was there for me too.

    They took our plastic detergent bottles, tin cans and yes, the empty wine bottles! Along with the pepper jelly and the rest.

    Earthworks Pottery will take your used newspapers and re-export them to places that recycle them.

    We are also composting the organic peelings- banana peels, carrots, potatoes, and so on. Do you do this too?

  18. J

    I would like to compost – but not to keep a dirty pest ridden mess in the backyard-. Can anybody offer any good composting advice?

  19. art

    One way is to keep it under the sink next to the non-recyclable in a good sealed bucket from “Century Elson” in Green Hill- they carry all sizes of buckets with really good lids- rubber seals so odour free when shut.

    In the yard if you have time maybe try to dig a hole and cover compost up with dirt, but this is work and you may not have the time if you have a busy schedule. You can do this once a week with the good buckets.

    Tortoises like those at the Wildlife Reserve are good pets and vegetable “recyclers”. Two of these have grown from matchbox size to paperback in 6 years. Mashing up mangos and soursops that fall.

  20. J

    Dear art:


  21. Sundowner

    We have a composter inherited from a friend who left the Island, it looks like an upside-down cone with a flat top which you take off to put your veggie peelings etc in, with small slits in the side to help with aeration. Carters used to sell them,maybe the Future Centre would know where to purchase one, just make sure it stands on a flat piece of land so rats can’t get in underneath!!
    It works really well, we water it once a week and ‘turn’ the contents over, throw in a few worms as well they break everything down really well. I’m sure they had some info’ at Agrofest as well, maybe the NCC could help?

  22. J

    Dear Sundowner:



  23. I guess my last comment was nuked because of the links. Ah well….

    J, we at the Green Team blog did a series of posts on composting and its ease that you might find useful, particularly since the pieces are written from perspective of doing it in the tropics on an island (well, one posts discusses doing it in an urban context in NYC, but its tips are still useful). Just google “Grean Team” “Dominican Republic” “composting” and you’ll find it.


    BFP says,

    Hey friend!

    OK>.. found it! And it is now posted.


  24. Hmm, wonder what happened to it…. Well, ok, here goes. The post links I provided earlier were as follows:
    “Confessions of a Worm Widow” (a humorous look at worm composting)
    “Urban Composting is Easy!”
    Composting in Santo Domingo:
    Part I
    Part II
    Part III
    Part IV
    Part V

    A Composting Experiment on a Finca (Farm) in the DR:
    Part I
    Part II

  25. Anna

    Hans and Eva Rausing do not have anything to do with Tetra Pak; the company is now owned by relatives who they have not spoken to in years.

    Complain all you want about those cartons, search for solutions. But I challenge you to find a substitute for them.