UK’s only beverage carton recycling plant opens


The UK’s only dedicated beverage carton recycling plant will open today (3 September) near Halifax, West Yorkshire.

Minister for Resource Management, Lord de Mauley, will officially open the facility today, over a year after it was officially announced in June 2012.

A joint initiative between the Alliance for Beverage Cartons & the Environment (ACE UK) and paper and packaging producer Sonoco Alcore, the plant will be able to process 25,000 tonnes (around 40 per cent) of the 60,000 tonnes of cartons that are placed on the UK market each year, equivalent to 1.25 billion cartons.

‘Numerous benefits’

It is hoped that the beverage carton recycling plant will offer ‘numerous’ benefits to local authorities, and ‘drastically’ increase kerbside collection of beverage cartons and UK carton recycling rates. ACE UK expects that by the end of 2013, another 10 authorities will start collecting cartons in their kerbside service to send to the facility.

Having a ‘clearly defined’ domestic end destination for used beverage cartons in the UK will also help to reduce road and rail miles, as previously, cartons collected through ACE UK were exported to mills in Sweden for processing.

It is estimated that by using the new UK facility instead of sending recyclates abroad, the 180 local authorities that collect beverage cartons could reduce the amount of transport-related carbon dioxide produced by 122 tonnes a year.

Further, the plant could offer an opportunity for local authorities with no-export policies on waste to recycle cartons, instead of sending them to landfill. When running at its full capacity, the facility will reportedly have the potential to reduce landfill taxes and gate fees for local councils by £3.6 million (based on 2013 levels), offering ‘better value for council tax payers’.

Plant will provide ‘secure supply of material’

Commenting on the recycling process, Vice President of Sonoco Alcore, Adam Wood, said: “Sonoco Alcore will use the high-quality fibres from collected cartons to produce paperboard. This paperboard is used to manufacture our tubes and cores, which are also recyclable. 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.”

These fibres collected are said to be strong enough to be recycled many times, making them a ‘valuable’ raw material for new products, and ‘locking’ in carbon for longer.

A key part of the process is the pulping and separation of the paperboard layers, which are broken down into a fibre slurry, from the fine polythene and aluminium layers. Following this, both types of layer are cleaned and filtered to ensure no finer pieces or polymer/aluminium remain in the fibre mix and vice versa. The water content of both materials is then reduced to an optimum level, before storage.

The polymer and aluminum layers (the latter only for long-life products), used to present leakage and provide a protective barrier to oxygen respectively, will also be recycled. Several different approaches for recycling or recovering this fraction are currently ‘being assessed’, and the layers will be stored until a UK solution is in place in 2014.


Click here to see an enlarged version of this image

An ‘exciting development’

Speaking of the new facility, Minister for Resource Management, Lord de Mauley, said: “Dealing with waste and recycling properly is not only good for the environment but can boost economic growth and create jobs. This new recycling plant is an exciting development and I’m delighted to see businesses working together to improve our ability to recycle more here in the UK. There is a huge global market for waste and recycling and I want to see UK businesses leading the way on this and helping us compete in the global race.”

Chief Executive of ACE UK, Richard Hands, 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.”

The Halifax facility will be UK’s only such processing plant, after the Smith Anderson paper mill in Scotland closed in 2006.

Northern Irish recycling service provider, Bryson Recycling, became the first company to sign up to recycle beverage cartons at the plant, in October 2012.

Read more about the new beverage carton recycling plant.