Brazil’s small-scale business model for recycling post-consumer Tetra Paks

The time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is typically a period when people look back and forward and decide what they will do differently in the year to come. Well, let me give you something to contemplate, read this article, invite some friends for a nice diner or b-b-q and discuss with them this topic. Organize the community and get it started.

In a never ending process many a ‘green’ website maintains the discussion alive whether Tetra Pak containers are recyclable or not or whether Tetra Pak’s claim to be sustainable is correct. The ‘simpletons’ even want to ban Tetra Pak from the packaging world. Ignorance reigns supreme. I will be the last one to claim that Tetra Paks aren’t a problem in the recycling process and unfortunately mainly end-up on landfills (to stay there for hundreds of years). But it has to be said that it’s not all Tetra Pak’s fault.

Before I continue I have to state, that I am a believer in source-responsibility. In other words in my opinion the manufacturer of packaging material is responsible for it’s product up till the end (post-consumer situation). The recycling and recovering of post-consumer packaging material can’t be left to the public authorities, as they always find an excuse not to implement a collecting and recycling system and in the most positive situation are very happy to dumb it on a landfill.
Ok, there always are exceptions, but sadly enough too few.

Let’s first discuss the primary question. Can Tetra Paks be recycled? The answer is a simple, but firm: Yes, they can. It might not be a perfect ‘cradle-to-cradle’ life-cycle, but the ‘grave’ in ‘cradle-to-grave’ can be delayed quite some time, so that we, in several occasions, can speak of a ‘cradle-to-reincarnation’ cycle.

Worldwide there are some hundred paper mills which recycle post-consumer beverage cartons, recovering the paper part of the cartons. They vary in terms of size and type of production. The paper mill that recycles the most cartons is the German Papierfabrik Niederauer Muhle, recycling about 100,000 tonnes of cartons every year – the equivalent of 500 million beverage cartons. Unfortunately most of the pe/alu residue of the beverage carton continues to be dumped on landfills.

Other champions in beverage carton recycling are Corenso Varkaus in Finland, and Stora Enso Barcelona, in Spain. The most sophisticated recycling plant for Tetra Paks is Piracicaba in Brazil, which comes very close to the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ principal. The joint-venture between Alcoa Aluminio, Tetra Pak, Klabin and TSL Ambiental, uses groundbreaking plasma technology, which enables the total separation of aluminium and plastic components from the cartons. This innovative process constitutes a significant enhancement to the common recycling process for carton packaging, which separates paper, but keeps plastic and aluminium together. The plasma process provides another option for recycling, allowing for the return of all three components of the cartons to the productive chain as raw material. However these three recycled components are not used in new Tetra Paks so that it’s not a perfect closed loop or cradle-to-cradle recycling.

The main problem with all these large scale and sophisticated recycling plants is the availability of post-consumer Tetra Paks, which requires the implementation of large-scale selective collecting systems. Only in some highly developed and well-organized countries and areas these systems exist. As a consequence the larger part of the roughly 140 billion Tetra Paks (equivalent to 70 billion litre packs) used worldwide is dumped as common household waste and ends-up on landfills, adding nothing to the economy and just wasting prime-materials.

If I strictly interpret my statement, written above, that packaging material companies should be held responsible for the post-consumer residues of their marketed products, one can claim that it is Tetra Pak’s fault that so many beverage packs end-up as waste, polluting the planet disproportionately and frustrating its claim to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. The certification of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) doesn’t have any value in relation to the lack of properly handling the post-consumer situation.

Aware that there is few hope that local or national authorities arrange for a functional large-scale selective waste-collecting system and, in general, lack all creativity other than writing restricting laws and regulations, the Development Department of Tetra Pak in Brazil set to work.  
Of course they had the “Law of the Stimulating Backwardness” to their advantage, as there are few people in well-organized developed countries who think small and simple in terms of business opportunities. That’s quite different with emerging countries as Brazil, which due to its immense size and despite it’s recent economic and hi-tech development, is in many areas stuck with one foot in the 21st century and with the other somewhere in the 1950s.

As a result of the axiom: “Successful recycling shouldn’t be limited to huge quantities – small operations, or communities with access to fewer beverage cartons can successfully recycle too”, they developed a small-scale technology for the manufacturing of the so-baptized “green roof shingles”. It premises the valorisation of the small-scale recycling chain in a way to generate employment and income, while it intends to prevent tons of plastic and aluminium to end up on landfills.

The technology is as simple as effective. We all know, that Tetra Pak cartons consists of 75% paper, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium. With that in mind post-consumer beverage cartons are thrown into a hydropulper (just a large-scale kitchen mixer), while water is added, no chemicals are used. The material is run in batches of about 30 minutes during which time the rotating action and water separates the fibre from the polyethylene and aluminium. The fibre that has been separated is pumped to a dewatering machine to drain out excess water. The fibre is then ready to be sold to a paper mill.

Still sticking to each other, the polyethylene and aluminium, left in the hydropulper falls into a separate cage where it is shredded and laid out in the open to dry. Once it is dry, the polyethylene-aluminium shreds are layered in a tray which is then placed into a hot press. The layers are heat pressed at 180°C (356°F) forming a flat board of 2m x 1m (7 mm thick). When this board comes out of the hot press it is soft and can be cold-press moulded into corrugated roof shingles.

Presently there are in Brazil some eleven small companies producing corrugated roof shingles from recycled Tetra Paks.
Ecofuturo in Paraná is one of them, working in three shifts with nine employees. Interestingly, although thought to be a perfect solution for low-income housing, the farmers in Paraná prefer these roof shingles because they have a huge advantage over corrugated asbestos or aluminium roof shingles. The ‘Tetra Pak’ roof shingles do not transfer noise when it rains, avoiding disturbance and even heart attacks under the chickens or other animals the farmers raise. Furthermore the green shingles are superbly waterproof, inflammable, unbreakable, have a heat transfer 30% lower than shingles made from asbestos cement, are some 50% lighter saving on the construction, and finally 30% cheaper than the existing alternatives.

Each ‘green’ shingle (2 x 1 metre, 7 mm thick) produced is derived from 1,540 beverage cartons. To produce 1,000 green shingles per month, a factory consumes roughly 10 tonnes of post-consumer beverage cartons. To give you an idea about the potential market. Santa Cruz, a neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro with some 200,000 middle and low income inhabitants, consumes according to the Association of Traders of Building Materials (ACOMAC), some 40 tonnes of the asbestos type shingles per month.

According to Fernando von Ziben, director of Environment of Tetra Pak Brasil, the technology for production of roof shingles is already being exported to countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, China, Colombia, Costa Rica and South Africa. In South Africa Tetra Pak went a step further and commissioned a small scale recycling plant, based in Germiston, Gauteng, to show communities how they can profit from the recycling potential of Tetra Paks in South Africa.

Despite the success, Seidel Juliana Matos, an expert in environmental development of Tetra Pak Brasil, says the challenge now is to increase the collection of raw material. “It’s useless having companies or cooperatives able to produce these shingles without raw material. Communities have to be aware that the Tetra Pak packaging is worth money. The problem is that many don’t know that it can be recycled.”

But there are communities discovering this ‘gold mine’! Realizing not only that they help to save the planet, but also that they can finance their charity. One of the examples is the Paróquia de Santo Antônio (Parish of St. Anthony, in Bras de Pina, a 200.000 inhabitants suburb in Rio de Janeiro), which is collecting all kinds of Tetra Pak packages to be recycled and to be made into shingles, so they can finance the work in the orphanage for which they took responsibility. The community got the support of communication and design bureau Atrevo which designed the poster (see picture) as well as presentations in shopping malls in the region. Furthermore, they are motivating their parishioners to bring these post-consumer packages from their residences and their relatives to realize an ever increasing amount of revenue.

Your Christmas Present

Community organizing, with two benefits: Go green and make money for charity. Something to think about for 2010.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And if you don’t support the word “Christmas”, may I wish you Happy Meaningful Holidays.



89 responses to “Brazil’s small-scale business model for recycling post-consumer Tetra Paks

  1. great article..
    my compnay is also the largest recycler for Tetra Pak cartons in India. doing a very similar thing to Brazil, but integrated pulp and roof sheet producer.
    a great business model i must say!!

    • Hi Tushar,

      Can you tell me what company do you work for? I wanted to study some business models on Tetra Pak recycling. I am currently studying in Cambridge and have been working on a consultancy project related to Tetra Pak.


    • Really good article!
      Does anyone knows how the roofing sheets are pressed and what kind of glue is used?

      • Xavier, there is no glue needed. By heating the shredded cartons (without the paper board) the PE melts and forms a unity, which can by pressed in any form.

      • Thanks Anton for the reply,

        Do you know any other technics to recycle some mixed paper and plastics from trash?
        I’m trying to form a community based programme to recycle huge amount of trashes in Indonesia and making some roofing sheets appears as a wonderful idea.
        The only problem I face is the a way to fix plastic and paper. I tried different kind of cements but with various results.

        Thanks again,

    • hi tushar, can i have your number. i have a small scale upcycling firm based in pune. i need to buy some of your recycled roof sheets. can i get your contact details. my no. 9764328226 (Prashant)

    • dear mr tushar ,

      May I have details reg. sheets made from recycled tetra packs manf. by your company ? please mail me at about your website also.


      M Jain
      Bhiwani Haryana

      • I can’t send you sheets, as I don’t have them. I’m not a company. I’m just a writer about packaging technology. You have to contact the companies mentioned in the article or use Google.

    • Hi Tushar,
      I live in Thailand and have a friend who is interested in this recycling of Tetra Pak type cartons, so can you give me more details of what you are doing.
      Thanks in advance

      Malcolm kaye

      • please share your email ID. you can connect with Fiber Pattana in Thailand. they are Tetra Pak carton recyclers for Thailand

  2. Hi,

    I would like to know how many liters of water are necessary for recyclate 1 M² of aluminium foil.

    In fact if we discuss of substainability we have to consider all the parameters.


    Hubert BLAIZOT

    • Hubert, water is used for the fibre and not for the alu. Whether you have virgin fibre or post-consumer in both cases you need the water. To seperate the pe and the alu, it’s only done in Piracicaba in Brazil with plasma technology.

      • We recycle tetra packs and create poly alu granules uses to make the front grills of cars as well as buckets and trolleys etc Contact me if u interested in processed tetra paks.


  3. Thanks for the update on recycling of aseptic packaging. I was briefly affiliated with Combibloc (now Tetra Pak) back in the mid-90’s and recall the proposed bans on the “Juice Box” because it could not be effetively recycled in Contra Costa County, CA. While the market penetration in North America never has equalled what I saw in Europe, it’s great to see that globally the technology continues to offer sustainable competitive advantage, partictularly where energy intensive cold chains for distribution have not, or cannot be developed.

  4. The main aim of the congress and the campaign (all made by ERICA) is to put in evidence that separate waste collection helps to recover resources and preserving the Environment, underlining the innovation made by the recycling of Tetra Pak-like packages.


  5. Excellent article! Do you happen to know more about what other building materials TP packages can be turned to and whether it is cheaper to turn them to building material or recycle them?

    This is really great – if you are free, it would be great to have a word with you. You can reach me on the email above.

    Kind regards,


    • Asen, as a matter of fact the hot-pressed sheets can and are used as basic material for (office) furniture, wall seperations and many another application. Roof shingles is just one of the options, but with some creativity you can manufacture many other products.
      If you have to say something to me, you can contact me by: amsteeman(at)xs4all(dot)nl

  6. Pingback: Tetra-Pak recycling «·

    • Hi Mr Shah,
      I am interested in importing recycled roofing sheet for the African market. Please contact me ….email:

      Ganga Sagar
      (Africa Division)

      • HI Mr Ganga Sagar
        We are in manufacturing of these type roofing sheets having mfg plant in maharashtra. for more pls contact me 09766092061

  7. Thank you for a very interesting article. I’m an architect student currently living in Brazil and I already thought about some of the many possibilities in this form of recycling. You mention that it can be used for making furniture. Do you have some examples of that? I would be very interested in knowing more about this process.

    • Anders, if you are an architect, please, use your imagination. If you are living in Brazil, go and visit the favelas and you will see a sea of possibilities in house construction for the Tetra sheets.
      And not only in undulated roof tiles, think in terms of a pressed sheet which can be used (and is already in use) for separation walls, tops for furniture etc.
      Again it is so easy, when using your imagination

      • Hi Anton sir

        We are in mfg of these type of tetra pack recycling. We need your help to improve our product quality

  8. Dear Anton,

    thank you for the really interesting information about Tetra-Pack recycling. It is a big questions even for us living in European countries.

    The small-scale business concept you are presenting interests me a lot and actually I have heard from my company’s local partners in India that it happens also there, as mentioned from previous commentators.

    I would like to ask you if you could provide me more technical information, or a demonstration video on how the small-scale recycling process is actually happening, cause it could be great to promote the idea in the intervention areas we are active, as an income generating activity for waste pickers and other groups and as an additional resource recovery option!

    I am thanking you in advance and hope to hear from you soon.


    • Nathalie,

      I would like to speak with you about potentially working together on this concept. Could you email me at tylercmurray87(at)gmail(dot)com I have a recycling technology that may be more suited to the type of recovery that you have mentioned.

  9. Anton how are you,
    I’m from Ecuador, I’m also very interested in taking this process of Tetrapak recycling to my country, because there doesn’t exist a plant for recycling these wastes.

    What I would like to know is where is the right place to ask
    for the machines,etc etc in order to import them here. I have read about the Parana plant. Do you know the webpage or something to contact them?. I haven’t find it till now.How possible will this be ?

    Thank you for your time,
    Patricio C.

    • Patricio,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Your best bet is to contact: Sr. Fernando von Zuben, Diretor do Departamento de Meio Ambiente da Tetra Pak,
      I know they are assisting people to start a recycling unit.

      Furthermore you can contact: FSB Comunicações, Liliana Morales – Tel. (11) 3061-9596 / E-mail:
      They have been assisting some start-ups

      I have some more websites, where you can find info:

      Hope this is helpful. Keep me informed.

    • Patricio,

      I have a machine that you may be interested in taking a look at. What type of products are you interested in producing? We have a very efficient machine that can process Tetra Paks along with filler materials as well. We can talk about exactly how much it would cost to have a machine made for your needs within budget. There are many options for licensing as well. I can send you some pictures of the machine and products that can be produced. The machine is not limited to Tetra Paks as it can actually recycle ANY plastics that you have a need for processing. No cleaning, no sorting. Any hazardous chemicals or liquids such as pesticides or oil residue is vaporized in the process. Send me an email and we can talk about how to make this work.

  10. I´m looking a for a technology to make roof shingles of Tetra Pak for mexico, anyone know where I can find a machinery manufacturer of it?

    • You have to contact Tetra Pak Brazil or one of the links I gave in my article. Look also in the comments. This request is made by others as well.

  11. Thanks for your Information.
    I am a trader of roofing sheets and deal in all type of roofing sheets. I m really thankfull to you for sharing your knowledge.can you tell me, who are manufacturers of machines for producing roofing sheets from Tetra Pak?
    What will be the cost in Indian Ruppes?

  12. Anton,

    You’re a star for bringing such innovative idea into the public domain. I live in the UK and have for sometime been involved in a research to overcome the overwhelming plastic culture in the water drinking habits of most African countries.

    I had considered the migration of the plastic packaging to the tetra pak as a lasting solution to the problems of the plastic issue in water packaging. Yet, the issue of recycling tetra pak was bogging me until I just read your masterpiece.

    Knowingly, you are in Netherlands. If so, then it will be easier for me to keep in close contact with you beacuse, I will definitely be needing you soon. Thanks a million Anton. God Bless.

    Regards, Eric

    • Thanks Eric for your comment. However I am not living in the Netherlands. I am Dutch alright, but live in the delta of the Amazon River in Brazil. Not quite in the neighbourhood you imagined. Nevertheless keep contact.

  13. Hi my name is Andreas. I’m from Cyprus (an island in Europe). I have a plan of building my small factory (400m²) with recycling materials. I was wandering if it’s possible to use this material for the roof and some separation in my factory? Also I would like to know what is the cost of this material or if I can by it from a supplier near my country.

    • hi.
      we also supply these roof tiles to RSA, East Africa, Europe. we have many installations in Mombasa, the coastal city of Kenya. contact: recycle(at)damanganga(dot)com or rishi(at)dil(dot)co(dot)ke

  14. who would be the best person to contact for importing of the tiles to south africa. thanks brett

  15. Dear Sirs,

    Please tell us if you have a complete line to recycle Tetra Pak packaging. We are in Venezuela and we have a customer asking for this kind of technology.

    Thank you so much for your kind attention and support.

    • Humberto, I am only a writer about packaging and related items. I have nothing to sell. Contact Tetra Pak in Brazil as they have developed this system. They certainly are willing to help you.

  16. Dear Sir,

    Iam intersted in installing a plant for corrogated roof sheets from recycle tetra pack. WE are in business of manufacturing of recycling paper and make flutting paper. we have much waste of tetra pack and which need attention. Kindly inform me about its machines and address so we can get in touch with them to start recycling.

    • I have no machines available. As the article tells you it is a development from Tetra Pack Brasil. So, contact them and I am sure they are able to help you further as they have been assisting various companies to set up a recycling unit.

      • mr. shah pls. send your detail for plant. we need some detail of machinery.

      • Hi Mr Shah,
        Please contact me for a possible set up and purchase of the recycling machine for the roofing sheet, I am based in Botswana.
        Ganga Sagar
        (Africa Division)

      • Sorry, I can’t send you the info about the machines. Read the article, extract the machines necessary and look in the Indian market for a solution. There are many Indian machine manufacturers which can supply you the machines you need for this process. As a consultant I can make you a simple plant set-up with indication to machine manufacturers and descriptions of the process. The price for such a report will be 2,000 USD.

  17. Dear Sir we have interest in tetra pak recicling equipment to produce corrugated roof shingles.

    Please if you could sen us this information to our email:

    Juan Manuel del Mar

  18. m preparin a project… a business plan for your product .. in my country..i need details about production process, etc wer to avail d machinery…can u plz mail me d production process of dis roofing shilgles out of tetrapaks

  19. *Fire at Recycling Plant brings out startling facts of Mafia like activities
    of Swedish packaging giant and Indian NGOs into light:*

    On June 27th 2011, a fire broke out in Daman Ganga Paper mills limited which
    caused burning of over 8000 tons of imported Tetra Pak waste stored there
    for recycling. Daman Ganga paper mills located in Vapi, Gujarat, is the only
    paper mill in India where 100% recycling of used Tetra Pak cartons is done.

    The company started Tetra Pak cartons’ recycling project in year 2004 on
    trial basis. Since year 2008 it has been recycling these cartons full
    fledged. The paper mill which caught fire was a sick unit on the verge of
    being shut down before Tetra Pak identified it to recycle its used juice and
    milk cartons.

    “Tetra Pak made 100% investment in Daman Ganga paper mill and helped Mr.
    Tushar Shah (Proprietor, Daman Ganga Paper mills limited) to set up an
    exclusive used Tetra Pak cartons recycling facility”, says Mr. Zeeshan Khan,
    manager environment at Tetra Pak, “the reason I feel for such investment was
    that no paper mill in India agrees to recycle Tetra Pak cartons because of
    technical difficulties during pulping them”. “Daman Ganga attracted
    attention of Tetra Pak because of its close location to Mumbai port, which
    is helpful for us to get foreign waste at lower freights, secondly, it was
    always easy for us to set out terms of work because Daman Ganga needed
    investment as it was bankrupt”.

    “Above all, Tetra Pak had been looking for an existing infrastructure in
    India, which could be utilized with more of motivation and less of
    investment. Tetra Pak needed a recycler who could take care of its waste
    being generated globally.”

    Once the infrastructure was set, Daman Ganga paper mill came with a gigantic
    recycling capacity of 100 tons of cartons per day (Down to Earth Magazine
    July 01-15, 2010 issue, page 48). In beginning of year 2011 Mr. Shah
    announced a 10 times increase in recycling capacity of the paper mill. This
    means today Daman Ganga paper mill can recycle 30000 tons of Tetra Pak
    cartons in a month.

    Having said that, where does such a large quantity of Tetra Pak cartons come
    from? As informed by Mr. Khan about Tetra Pak cartons collection, Delhi
    sends 20 tons of cartons per month, Bangalore sends around 25 tons, Mumbai
    15 tons , Pune 15 tons. The paper mill gets some waste from our customers
    Dabur, Nestle, Parle Agro, PepsiCo India and Coca-Ccola India. Rest of the
    waste is imported from countries where Tetra Pak cartons can not be recycled
    or landfilled due to strict environmental legislations.

    Tetra Pak cartons are purchased @ Rs 4 per kilo from foreign countries, as
    Daman Ganga has to bear only freight cost to get them dumped in India.

    In India a paper mill has to cough up a sum of Rs 12 per kilo of these
    cartons. Tetra Pak company has to reimburse money to paper mill at the rate
    of Rs 5 to Rs 6 per kilo for Indian waste. In case of imported material
    Tetra Pak does not have to reimburse anything to paper mill. This is one of
    the basic reasons behind import of Tetra Pak cartons. It is sad that Daman
    Ganga and Tetra Pak can not find enough cartons to recycle from world’s
    second most populous country. On this Mr Khan says, “Our collecting partners
    are wrongly identified NGOs, and none of them is serious about recycling or
    environment”. “NGOs have not only failed but have jeopardized collection
    system of Tetra Pak cartons since day one”. “We have been misled on fields,
    in school programs, in collection of cartons and now the whole system has
    become a vicious cycle” he shares.

    Paper mills have to follow strict rules laid down by government to avoid
    accidents and so they have high standard fire safety and fire fighting
    arrangements. Nothing of this sort exists in Daman Ganga paper mill. The
    infrastructure of paper mill is low cost, wherein most machinery used is
    either second hand, or made of low cost below standard materials. Some
    conveyors which require heat insulation are made up of Poly-Al sheets
    (obtained by recycling Tetra Pak cartons), which are neither certified nor
    approved by any agency, private or government, for purpose of insulation.

    As part of internal development program for its employees, Tetra Pak
    organizes regular exposure visits of its employees to Daman Ganga paper mill
    either with media or with other delegates to show them recycling of
    multilayered cartons. The whole system was being carried out under close
    watch of Tetra Pak, putting tremendous pressure on paper mill to increase
    its operational capacity and increase recycling. With no further investments
    from Tetra Pak, Daman Ganga failed to install standard equipments in time,
    as it was left with very little money after purchase of raw materials.

    In a detailed discussion Mr. Khan informed that Daman Ganga paper mill had
    imported 5000 tons of used Tetra Pak cartons in June; out of these 1500 tons
    was insured stock. The whole lot was burnt to ashes. The cause of fire is
    still unknown and losses have still to be calculated. But some people still
    believe that the stock was deliberately burnt, as Daman Ganga wanted to
    extract Aluminum from cartons and sell it, instead of recycling these
    cartons which, otherwise would have taken much longer time to yield any
    income. This was the reason behind insuring only 1500 tons of cartons.

    Mr. Khan shared an email sent by Daman Ganga paper mills to all its clients,
    after this fire broke out:

    *Dear All,*

    *We have recently had a terrible fire at our recycling plant and the
    operations have temporarily stopped. The Waste Paper can not be unloaded at
    our plant.*

    * *

    *So please do not send any material till our further notice and also during
    this tenure payment shall not be released.*

    *We will highly appreciate your support during this time.*

    * *

    *Thanks & Regards*

    * *

    *Vanita Bhadra*

    *Daman Ganga Recycled Resources LLP*


    *via Vapi – Koparli Road,*

    *Gujarat** – 396 191*

    *Tel:+91 260 2390001,2,3*

    *Mbl:+91 98256 10005*

    * +91 98256 10008*



    • Sorry, I am not a supplier of roofing sheets. You can a complete plan to build your own recycling company to manufacture roofing sheets from tetraPaks and flexible packaging.

  20. Pingback: Six questions to ask before scaling | Inside | Out·

  21. Hi am Latiff from Kenya I would like to enquire about Tetra Pak recycling plant to be able to produce boards etc any leads of suppliers for the plant and prices please thanks

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