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Pack giants unveil UK’s first carton recycling plant

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Pack giants unveil UK’s first carton recycling plant

September 10
09:26 2013
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Packaging heavyweights Sonoco Alcore, SIG Combibloc, Tetra Pak and Elopak have worked together to develop and open the UK’s first beverage carton recycling plant.

Minister for Resource Management Lord de Mauley officially opened the UK’s only dedicated beverage carton recycling facility, located in Stainland (near Halifax), West Yorkshire (3 September).

The new facility in Stainland near Halifax boasts enough capacity to recycle up to 40% of the cartons used in the UK each year. This could mean 1.25 billion cartons could be recycled.

The plant is a joint initiative between the Alliance for Beverage Cartons & the Environment (ACE) UK – representing the leading beverage carton manufacturers Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG Combibloc – and paper and packaging producer Sonoco Alcore.

‘Game-changer’

Speaking to Packaging News at the official launch of the plant, Lord de Mauley said: “Why is it a game changer? Well, up until now all the used beverage cartons had to be exported and this plant is going to be able to accommodate 40% of the UK’s waste beverage cartons. It is also a great example of producers taking responsibility for their products. We are recycling about 43% of materials that we throw away. We aim to get to 50% by 2020. That’s why this is important. “

Sonoco Alcore will take advantage of the strength and quality of the virgin wood fibres found in cartons by turning them into industrial-strength coreboard at its paper mill located on the same site. This will then be made into 100% recyclable tubes and cores, which are used to wrap paper, man-made fibre yarns, and metal and plastic film around for industrial applications.

Speaking to PN, Sonoco Alcore vice president for Converted Products/Paper Europe Adam Wood, said: “This is a great opportunity. We are now able to recycle and use something that was traditionally difficult to recycle. It is good on many fronts. The first point is that the material was leaving the UK before, increasing our carbon emissions, and that is now not happening. Now it is local – so the materials come to us more easily. We have the technology through this investment to separate the materials out and then turn them into a new product that we can use and send to our customers. It is a really good fit for what we can do and an extra stream of materials that we can use.

“One critical factor of producing core is that you need a really good fibre structure.”

Wood said that Sonoco can get high quality fibres from the cartons to turn into “higher end cores”.

Wood added that the new carton recycling facility is capable of producing enough material each year for 15,500 tonnes of new coreboard, enough to make 17.8 million average-sized cores and provide a consistently secure supply of material for our company.

ACE UK said that a stable price per tonne for cartons will be and cartons will no longer need to be exported to Sweden to be recycled.

Cartons collected in over 180 local authority areas are already set to come to the new facility for recycling. By the end of 2013, ACE UK expects another 10 local authorities to start collecting cartons in their kerbside service and send them to the carton recycling facility.

2009 discussions

ACE UK chief executive Richard Hands told PN that discussions between the members to develop a carton recycling plant in the UK had begun in 2009. He added: “The ultimate aim of our members –Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG Combibloc – is to meet the requirements of retailers, manufacturers and consumers for packaging that is easy to recycle. Kerbside recycling schemes provide the most convenient collection method for consumers and we expect more cartons to be collected in this way now that local authorities have a secure domestic market for this material stream.

“While we have already made great progress – the number of local authorities collecting cartons at the kerbside has increased more than ten-fold in the last six years – we’re really excited by this development and its potential to further transform carton recycling in the UK.”

SIG Combibloc managing director Malcolm Allum also said the new facility will help to increase household rates.

Tetra Pak environment manager Gavin Landeg explained the launch was “fantastic news” for the carton industry.  Elopak market unit manager UK and Ireland Clive Brown said that the opening of the facility in Halifax was the “most significant event in the UK recycling for a long time”.

Fine polymer and aluminium

The fine polymer and aluminium layers used in beverage cartons (the latter only for long-life products), to prevent leakage and provide a protective barrier to oxygen (respectively), are also separated as part of the recycling process.

Several different approaches for recycling and/or recovering this fraction are currently being assessed and a UK solution will be in place in 2014. The polythene and aluminium will be stored until then – it will not be landfilled or exported.


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