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.
Barbados Free Press