UK’s first beverage carton processing plant to boost recycling rates - industry

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

UK’s first beverage carton processing plant to boost recycling rates - industry

Related tags Recycling

The UK’s first beverage carton reprocessing plant is to be established thanks to a partnership between packaging giants Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc and Elopak with Sonoco Alcore.

The coalition, part of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE), said the move to build the plant in the north of England would boost UK beverage carton recycling rates, create a market for recycled material and enhance the sustainability credentials of the material.

The 1,150 square-metre site in Halifax, West Yorkshire is due to be operational early next year and will have the capacity to recycle 25,000 tonnes of cartons - some 40% of the UK’s material volume.

The cartons will be sourced from household and commercial waste gathered by local authorities.

ACE said it could not comment on the financial terms of the arrangement but confirmed its members had contributed “time and expertise”​ to the joint project with Sonoco Alcore.

Market and eco-benefits

The wood fibres in beverage cartons are of sufficient quality to be recycled into new paperboard applications both for industrial and consumer use, said the industry body.

The Sonoco Alcore plant will recycle the reprocessed paperboard layers into products, such as the tubes for cling film and the cores for rolls of textiles.

Richard Hands, chief executive of ACE UK, told the new site would offer major benefits to local authorities which gather the cartons either through industry’s bring-bank systems or kerbside collections from households throughout the UK.

The initiative would also benefit the food and beverage industry by create a UK market for recycled beverage cartons by increasing the collection rates of good quality feedstock, he added.

The Halifax site will slash the road and rail miles travelled by used beverage cartons for recycling. At present cartons amassed by ACE UK are reprocessed in a mill in Barcelona, Spain. Previous sites have been located in Italy and Sweden.

“Food and beverage companies can cut transport costs by sending paperboard waste to Halifax instead of mainland Europe,”​ said Hands. “Also as recycling rates in the UK go up, this will make paperboard a more appealing material environmentally. It’s a win-win situation and we believe it will help increase beverage carton recycling rates significantly.”

The move will also enable those local authorities with no-export policies on waste to recycle cartons in the UK - diverting material from landfill and avoiding landfill tax, gate fees and associated greenhouse gas emissions. 

ACE said if the UK plant runs at full capacity, this would potentially reduce landfill taxes and gate fees by almost £3.5m based on landfill tax for 2012 and £3.6m for 2013.

Steady supply

Sonoco Alcore hailed the importance of the new facility.

“This partnership provides us with the fibre we need to produce our engineered tubes and cores, and we are looking forward to receiving a growing stream of cartons,”​ said Adam Wood, European vice president of Industrial Converting.

He added: “Additionally, as an integrated manufacturer, it is important for us to know our material sources and we know ACE UK members are committed to sourcing from responsibly managed forests. This partnership has brought real business benefits to our UK operations while supporting our sustainable business practices.”

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