For Tetra Pak, looking inward is a given when it comes to protecting the planet – yet the global processing and packaging company also appreciates the need to look outward to enhance its sustainability efforts across its entire value chain.
Tetra Pak believes the best way to make a positive environmental impact is a holistic approach, whether that means maintaining its own energy-and water efficient operations, working with partners and suppliers to promote renewable materials, or helping customers achieve their own sustainability ambitions, said Frederik Wellendorph, Vice President Liquid Food, Tetra Pak.
“Our view is always from the perspective of the value chain from the raw materials to the end product,” Wellendorph said. “How do we work with our suppliers who supply us? How do we look at our own manufacturing to avoid waste? Then, how can our equipment minimize the amount of energy or water it uses when processing and packaging customers products? It’s more than just focusing on ourselves.”
Frederik Wellendorph, Vice President Liquid Food, Tetra Pak.
Doing the Right Thing
With its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tetra Pak (www.tetrapak.com) employs over 25,000 people in 160 countries. Its processing and packaging solutions are used in the production and delivery of numerous products, including beverages, milk, ice cream, cheese, powder products, prepared food, and many others.
Sustainability has always been at the core of how Tetra Pak operates its business. The company began collecting data on energy use and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions annually since 1999. At its own facilities, the company invested $22 million into energy efficiency since 2011, which prevented energy use increasing by 23% to date. In 2020, its use of renewable electricity sources stood at 83%, up from 69% in 2019, and is expected to reach 100% before 2030. Its goal is to reach net zero GHG emissions at its operations by 2030, with the ambition to achieve net zero GHG emissions for the entire value chain by 2050.
“Using renewable resources and making sure we run our operations in a sustainable way is the right thing to do,” said Wellendorph.
In addition to operating resource-efficient facilities, a second component of Tetra Pak’s sustainability strategy is a commitment to a low-carbon circular economy that considers not just recycling and reuse of materials, but also the climate impact of raw materials and manufacturing.
The strategy is particularly crucial to sustainability goals concerning its carton packages. As an example, Tetra Pak began to restructure its packaging innovation strategy in 2018 around the ideal beverage carton: a fully renewable and recyclable package. Since then, it has significantly accelerated development efforts and increased investments to achieve its vision. Its goal is to field-test an aseptic package made entirely from renewable sources by 2022.
Saving Energy and Water in UHT Milk Processing
Aside from efficient operations and better carton packages, a critical aspect of Tetra Pak sustainability strategy involves ongoing development of solutions to help milk and beverage processors, as well as other customers, achieve their own sustainability ambitions.
Recently, the company introduced its UHT 2.0 portfolio, which in combination with E3/Speed Hyper packaging equipment, helps Ultra-Heat Treatment (UHT) milk processors reduce electrical consumption by as much as 31%, steam by up to 78% and freshwater consumption up to 40% when compared with the traditional UHT production process. By using the new technology versus the traditional approach to UHT milk production, producers stand to reduce their carbon footprint by as much as 56%.
Commonly found throughout Europe, UHT milk is produced using a process that allows milk to be packaged in sterile containers and stored unrefrigerated without spoilage for as long as nine months. By contrast, pasteurized milk common to North America and other areas of the world requires refrigeration and offers a limited shelf life of approximately two weeks after processing.
Given its experience with traditional UHT milk processing – and its goals in helping producers – Tetra Pak determined production efficiencies were to be gained, Wellendorph said.
“Energy and water savings are extremely important to dairy operators,” he said. “They are always targeting OPEX costs. How can we minimize the use of water, steam, chemicals, detergents? How can we improve the ratios?”
UHT Milk Production 2.0
Tetra Pak’s approach to conserving energy and water in UHT milk processing reduces the number of steps involved in production, which in turn, reduces the resources and costs involved.
UHT milk processing involves heating raw milk to higher than 275°F (135°C) for approximately one second, cooling it rapidly, and then aseptically packaging the milk into sterile containers. The continuous process is also used commonly used in processing fruit juices and other liquids.
With traditional UHT milk processing, raw milk is typically preheated from 42°F (5°C) to 190°F (90°C) using tubular or plate heat exchangers. The next step involves homogenization (also called separation) in order to separate the fat in milk and increase the product’s storage stability. Depending on the system used, homogenization occurs before or after the pasteurization. In the pasteurization stage, the milk is heated using either direct or indirect heating systems to reach the targeted temperature of 275°F (135°C). With direct heating, the product is put into direct contact with hot steam. Indirect heating is performed with tubular or plate heat exchangers.
After pasteurization, the milk is cooled to the original temperature of the raw milk. From there it enters the standardization process, which adjusts the constituents of milk to reduce butterfat content. It is then regeneratively cooled and held in storage in aseptic tanks until it is sent to an aseptic packer.
Unlike the traditional process, Tetra Pak’s UHT 2.0 with its “OneStep” technology eliminates the need for pasteurization, as well as storage. In a single, unbroken step, the raw milk is pre-heated, separated, standardized, and homogenized, before being sent to a UHT treatment unit where the milk is heated to 275°F (135°C) and then cooled. The milk is then transferred to aseptic tanks as with the traditional UHT milk process. Additionally, the solution includes a Tetra Pak® E3/Speed Hyper packaging equipment, which uses eBeam technology. Developed by Tetra Pak in combination with partner company COMET, eBeam technology sterilizes packaging material using electronic beams, replacing the traditional hydrogen peroxide sterilization process.
Tetra Pak’s E3/Speed Hyper packaging machine uses eBeam technology to sterilize packaging material with electronic beams versus the traditional hydrogen peroxide sterilization process. The result is significant energy savings.
If a processor starts production of UHT milk with powder versus raw milk, UHT 2.0 with OneStep technology can be used to combine concentrate mixing with in-line blending, also without the need for pasteurization or storage tanks. By adding different streams in the blending steps, such as a chocolate slurry or protein concentrate, processors can also produce a range of value-added products.
Fewer Steps Saves Resources
Although the potential energy and water savings – as well as operational costs – vary based on the uniqueness of each UHT processing plant and its geographic location, the Tetra Pak solution offers the opportunity for most to come out ahead given the reduction in processing steps, said Wellendorph.
“We found we can cut out the middle step, which is from the point when raw milk is received until it gets ultra-high treated. We’ve eliminated the pasteurization step and eliminated storage,” he said.
Wellendorph said a processor’s decision to install UHT 2.0 solution is typically driven by the addition of an entirely new production line, or replacement an old production line due to the economies of scale. Regardless the reasons for installing the technology, he said less processing and storage equates to more in terms of energy and water savings.
“Every time you have a vessel, and you have a pipe, and a pasteurizer, it needs to be cleaned quite frequently. Cleaning also requires heating up and cooling down. That costs energy, that costs water, that is a waste of raw materials. It’s unavoidable,” he said. “With this technology, energy consumption can be reduced by as much as a third and we can more than halve the water usage when it comes to cleaning. That translates into a near 60% reduction in a plant’s carbon footprint.”
Saving Energy and Water in JNSD Beverage Processing
While the UHT 2.0 portfolio gives UHT milk producers another method to minimize their environmental impact and reduce operational costs, Tetra Pak has also introduced a similar solution for companies that produce Juice, Nectar and Still Drink (JNSD) beverages.
The solution meets the growing demand for sustainable methods of producing this category of beverages, which are made from concentrates. The beverage category consists of juice, which is extracted from the pulp of fruits; nectar, which is a non-carbonated drink that contains some fruit juice and other ingredients such as water and sweeteners; and still drinks, which are non-alcoholic beverages without carbonation.
In traditional methods used to process JNSD beverages the full volume of juice concentrate and water is pasteurized. The new Tetra Pak solution, however, pasteurizes only the juice concentrate and not the entire volume of concentrate and water. The water is also treated with an optimized UV light and filtration. The process then blends the concentrate and water aseptically in line after the treatments.
Companies that produce Juice, Nectar and Still Drink (JNSD) beverages can save water and energy with Tetra Pak’s new JNSD processing solution.
Wellendorph said the first-of-its-kind process drastically reduces energy and water consumption, which in turn, can reduce a processing plant’s production costs and its environmental impact.
“This technology will have a massive impact on a plant’s energy consumption,” he said. “With standard orange juice made from concentrate, we have tested the process and seen nearly a 70% reduction in energy use. Plus, water consumption has been reduced by more than half.”
Wellendorph points out the need for JNSD beverage plants to factor in safety when deciding whether to use the Tetra Pak solution given the different processes and conditions involved.
“It can work on juice in general. As long as it’s from concentrate, it’s possible, but you really need to understand how to design a safe, hygienic plant, as well.”
Whether it’s Tetra Pak’s new solution for JNSD beverage processing, or a new option for processing UHT milk, Wellendorph said the trend in the beverage processing industry is pointing strongly toward a future focused on continued sustainability.
“It’s about taking steps to find solutions. It’s a big decision to invest in technologies like these, but it will be the future. It will come.”
All photos courtesy of Tetra Pak.
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