ACE announces rise in EU beverage carton recycling rate

Selection of drinks cartons
The UK uses around 60,000 tonnes of drinks cartons each year
The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) has announced that the that the recycling rate for beverage cartons in the European Union rose to 49 per cent in 2018 – a small but steady increase of one per cent from the previous year.

The one per cent climb makes this the thirteenth consecutive year that the rate has increased.

Annick Carpentier, Director General of ACE, said: “We are pleased to see that the beverage carton recycling rate continues to increase throughout the EU. The year-on-year increase underscores the efforts made towards recycling beverage cartons.”

Over the past four years, some EU Member States such as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain have reached recycling rates of over 70 per cent. However, these high percentages are not consistent across the EU as a whole.

“This is not enough if the EU wants to reach a low carbon circular economy” continued Carpentier. “We call for the ambitious implementation of EU waste legislation at national level to ensure all beverage cartons are collected and recycled. We believe that the recycling rate will continue to increase thanks to our industry’s commitment to support beverage cartons being recycled, including the non-fibre components.”

Drinks cartons have traditionally been tricky to recycle due to their composite nature – similar to single-use coffee cups, they are made of a cardboard shell with a plastic or aluminium lining. Though each individual component is recyclable, they have to be separated before reprocessing.

The UK uses around 60,000 tonnes of cartons each year but there is currently only one dedicated beverage carton recycling plant in the UK, located in Stainland, near Halifax, West Yorkshire. The plant recycles 40 per cent of the nation’s cartons.

However, the past decade has seen great progress in the carton recycling industry, with over 92 per cent of local authorities now including beverage cartons in kerbside recycling collections – this wasn’t the case ten years ago.

In addition, some carton manufacturers are redesigning their products to reduce the environmental impact of beverage packaging. Last month, Tetra Pak, which is represented by ACE UK, won an award for switching to paperboard and plant-based polymers, resulting in a 21 per cent reduction in the packaging’s carbon footprint.

ACE has launched a four-month ‘We’re not just square, we’re circular’ campaign to raise awareness about carton recycling in Europe and to highlight the low carbon footprint of beverage cartons due to the renewability of materials used.

“Beverage cartons provide a double circularity, at sourcing thanks to the renewability of their main components and at end-of-life through recycling. This double circularity helps ensure that beverage cartons play a role in helping achieve a low carbon circular economy,” said Carpentier.

Read more about The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment on the company’s website.

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