EU beverage carton recycling on the rise

Around 420,000 tonnes of beverage cartons were recycled in paper mills in 2014, according to the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE),.

This represents a recycling rate of 43 per cent in Europe (including EU member states, Norway and Switzerland), continuing an upward trend in recycling performance over the last two decades, but further measures are needed to ban packaging from landfills, the group has said.

The total recovery rate of recycling and energy in 2014 reached 76 per cent. Several countries including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain recycle 70 per cent or more of all beverage cartons put on the market while, according to ACE, a steady increase in carton recycling has been seen in new EU member states as well as a substantial advance in the UK.

EU beverage carton recycling on the rise
Beverage carton recycling rates (EU, Norway and Switzerland)

‘Further efforts are needed’ to meet the Circular Economy Package strategy

ACE works to promote renewable packaging solutions, contributing to EU policy, legislation and standard-setting. Its members include carton producers Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc and Elopak.

Bertil Heerink, Director General of ACE, said: “The beverage carton industry is continuously working to increase recycling levels of our products in Europe. We are firmly committed to contribute to the objectives of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package.

“However, the legal proposals need to look ahead to 2030 and recognise the changing market demands and foster innovation in packaging solutions, materials and recycling techniques.

“To grow recycling, EU waste legislation needs to ensure effective collection and recycling of end-of-life products and recyclable packaging, such as beverage cartons through extended producer responsibility (EPR).

“Further efforts are needed on banning packaging waste from landfill to ensure valuable raw materials are not ending up in landfills or being unnecessarily incinerated.”


In November, ACE UK, which represents beverage carton manufacturers in the UK, became the first industry body to take up part-ownership of the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL). The label scheme was devised to present clear guidance on recyclability, and has three categories that tell consumers how likely it is that their local authority will accept specific packaging materials for recycling.

RECycling Of Used Plastics (RECOUP) also became a part-owners in the scheme this month. According to the organisation, these developments extend OPRL’s mission to promote greater and more effective recycling of packaging materials across the expanding number of bodies. 

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