Resource Use

EU carton recycling rate hits 40 per cent


The EU’s recycling rate for beverage cartons reached 40 per cent in 2012 according to the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE).  

The figure, released on Wednesday (27 November), is equivalent to 380,000 tonnes of recycled packaging and represents a three per increase compared to 2011 data.

Data ‘collated by the beverage carton industry itself’ was drawn from countries that made up the EU-27 (prior to the accession of Croatia in 2013) and Norway and Switzerland. The figures show that in the past 10 years, the percentage of beverage cartons recycled has increased by 12 per cent: from 27 per cent (250,000 tonnes) in 2002, to 39 per cent in 2012.

Factoring in the processing of cartons for energy recovery, the newly released figures also show a total recovery rate of 69 per cent.

Beverage carton recycling process

Beverage cartons are composed of around 75 per cent paperboard, 21 per cent polymers and four per cent aluminium. Once used cartons are collected and processed, the paper fibres are recycled into new packaging material.

The polymer and aluminium, used to prevent leakage from cartons and to provide a protective barrier to oxygen, can also be recycled. Possible applications range from construction panels to industrial raw material.

’Very happy with the progress made’

Reflecting on the news, Katarina Molin, Director General of ACE, said: “After 20 years of tracking recycling rates in Europe, our industry is very happy with the progress made. In 1992 only 6,000 tonnes of post-consumer beverage cartons were recycled, in 2012 this number has increased to about 380,000 tonnes. ACE members have been very much engaged across Europe to foster the recycling of beverage cartons by ensuring an appropriate EU regulatory framework is in place.

“Recycling is definitely our favoured waste management option. Increasing beverage carton recycling across Europe is fully in line with the Commission’s vision to move towards a recycling economy as laid down in the EU Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe.”

Members of the ACE include beverage carton producers Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc and Elopak. These firms operate at 20 plants across Europe.

UK’s only carton plant

As part of its measures to boost carton recycling, earlier this year, ACE UK and packaging producer Sonoco Alcore opened the UK’s only dedicated beverage carton plant near Halifax in West Yorkshire.

The facility is able to process 25,000 tonnes of the 60,000 tonnes of carton packaging that are placed on the UK market each year and hopes ‘drastically’ increase kerbside collection of beverage cartons and UK carton recycling rates.

Richard Hands, Chief Executive of ACE UK, said: “We very much welcome this latest rise in carton recycling rates across the EU, which shows things are moving the right direction.  As recently as 2009 the recycling rate was just over 30 per cent, so to hit 40 per cent in 2012 is very encouraging.

“As an organisation, we and the members we represent, are committed to improving the opportunities for beverage carton recycling in the UK. Over 50 per cent of local authorities now collect cartons at kerbside for recycling, and we are confident that the opening earlier this year of the UK’s only dedicated carton recycling facility, a partnership between ACE UK and Sonoco Alcore, will provide a further boost to carton recycling rates.”

ACE UK offers advice and support to local authorities and community recycling networks wishing to collect cartons. An interactive map on the website can be used by residents to find out where and how to recycle beverage cartons in their area.

Read about ACE UK.