The UK’s first beverage carton recycling facility has been opened in Stainland, near Halifax by the Alliance for Beverage Cartons & the Environment (ACE) UK and paper and packaging producer Sonoco Alcore.
ACE UK is a trade body which represents beverage carton manufacturers Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG Combibloc.
The organisation said that the new facility is capable of recycling up to 25,000 tonnes of cartons per year, or 1.25 billion - 40% of the all cartons manufactured each year for the UK food and drink markets and enough wrap around the circumference of the earth six times.
According to ACE UK the materials used in beverage cartons are 100% recyclable. To achieve this, when the bailed cartons arrive at the new recycling facility they are first pulped with water for about 20 minutes to break the fibre down into a thin soup and to separate the polymer and aluminium layers.
The polymer and aluminium are used in beverage cartons to prevent leakage and provide a protective barrier to oxygen.
ACE UK said that it is currently exploring several different approaches for recycling and/or recovering this fraction and a UK solution will be in place in 2014. Until then it will be stored rather than being landfilled or exported.
The pulped fibre fraction is cleaned to remove contaminants such as grit and glue, before being passed through a drum thickener, which reduces the water content to the optimum level.
Thanks to the strength and quality of the virgin wood fibres found in cartons, the carton fibre mix is said to provide an excellent feedstock material for the production of Sonoco Alcore’s ‘coreboard’, which is manufactured in a paper mill located on the same site.
According to ACE UK, the coreboard, which is used to make tubes and cores for wrapping paper, man-made fibre yarns, and metal and plastic film around for industrial applications, is itself 100% 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," explained Adam Wood, vice president -Industrial Converting Europe, Sonoco Alcore.
As the new facility offers numerous benefits to local authorities, ACE UK said that it expected the kerbside collection of beverage cartons and UK carton recycling rates to increase dramatically - making it much easier for consumers to recycle their carton packaging.
The organisation noted that cartons collected in over 180 local authority areas are already set to come to the new facility for recycling.
By the end of 2013, ACE UK expects another 10 local authorities to start collecting cartons in their kerbside service and send them to the carton recycling facility.
"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,” commented Richard Hands, chief executive, ACE UK.
A clearly-defined domestic end destination for used beverage cartons- local authorities and residents can be assured their waste is being recycled in the UK. Previously, the best available solution for recycling used cartons was to export them to Europe
A stable price per tonne for cartons delivered - a better, more sustainable option compared to the price fluctuations on the global commodities market
A reduction in road and rail miles travelled by used beverage cartons for them to be recycled. Previously cartons collected through ACE UK bring banks were recycled at mills in Sweden. Recycling cartons at the new UK facility instead will lead to an estimated annual reduction of 122 tonnes of transport-related CO2
An opportunity for local authorities with no-export policies on waste to recycle cartons in the UK, rather than send them to landfill. When running at its full capacity of 25,000 tonnes per annum, the UK carton recycling facility has the potential to reduce landfill taxes and gate fees for local authorities by £3.6 million (based on 2013 levels) - offering better value for council tax payers.
The launch of the facility is covered in WMW’s weekly newscast, which can be viewed below.
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