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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Tramontina Courts Circularity, First by Addressing Packaging Pain Points

The Brazilian cookware giant released its first comprehensive sustainability and environmental impact review, detailing its progress toward and ongoing pursuit of sustainability.

Tramontina may not be a name that immediately resonates in the sustainability community; but as one of the world’s largest producers of cookware and housewares, the Brazil-based conglomerate has a significant reach — and thus, potential for significant impact.

Annually, Tramontina produces 90 million knives, 70 million saucepans and frying pans and 50 million tools distributed in 120 countries. In the United States and Canada, the company is largely known for aluminum cookware and tri-ply clad cookware.

In a recent interview, CEO Marcelo Borges told Sustainable Brands® that plastics are unsurprisingly the company’s biggest pain point as it seeks to evolve a range of sustainability-related efforts — led by an announcement earlier this year of its ambition to transition to 90 percent recycled materials in its single-use bags. The company’s first Sustainability Report, released in August, suggests this could reduce the CO2 output from its packaging by as much as 60 percent. A result of Tramontina’s ongoing partnership with environmental consulting firm Searious Business, the impact of this change will be recognized across nearly 10 million poly bag units used annually and be completed for all items with production dates beginning February 2023.

Progressively better packaging

Borges also notes the company is working feverishly to replace styrofoam with cardboard across as much packaging as possible (in 2021, it reduced usage by 65,000 liters), with the eventual goal to phase it out altogether.

Another major transition has been the use of envelope-like packaging to reduce the overall weight of product shipping. The company reports it’s been able to reduce weight by 65 percent — not only reducing emissions but preventing seven tons of plastic from entering the product stream annually.

Through an additional initiative of using 90 percent recycled plastic in packaging for sinks, vats and tanks, Tramontina expects to recycle another 100,000 kg of plastic by the end of 2022.

Quietly spearheading circularity

Tramontina’s efforts in water stewardship and waste control date back to the early 1990s, as early examples of a large South American company taking steps to control its overall footprint and impacts.

“Water and effluent management have always gone hand in hand with our industrial process development,” Borges says.

In 1992, Tramontina started to use rainwater in industrial production; and it began the reuse of treated effluents in various industrial settings in 2002. Further, the Tramontina Waste Center in Carlos Barbosa, Brazil — founded in 1993 — is leading the company’s waste-management efforts with a focus on fostering several circular economy projects.

“Any waste that goes through our Sorting Center and that can be recycled (scrap aluminum, steel, plastic, cardboard, wood, etc) is part of our circular projects,” Borges says. “Such waste materials are reused internally — avoiding disposal of noble raw material, and reducing the need for a new purchase and, consequently, a new extraction.”

In 2021, the company recycled more than 26,400 tons of scrap metal — including over 11 thousand tons of aluminum — and reprocessed it internally into new raw material.

In another example, one Tramontina division sends surplus plastic from various production processes to its packaging supplier — which then adds waste from its own operation and from other recycled resin suppliers to produce the packaging for that division. The company says in 2021, 90 percent of the plastic used in the packaging was sourced from recycling.

Other 2021 stats from Tramontina’s circularity efforts include:

  • 93.5 percent of the waste generated by Tramontina was recycled or converted to energy.

  • Changes in process allowed its Tramontina Cutelaria factory in Carlos Barbosa to reduce more than 12.8 tons of plastic in its packaging.

  • Roughly 10 percent of Cutelaria's cardboard packaging need was met with reused material, accounting for more than 2 million units.

  • The company composted 918 tons of waste for use as agricultural inputs.