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First UK drinks carton reprocessing plant opens soon

By Joe Whitworth , 14-Feb-2013
Last updated on 14-Feb-2013 at 14:24 GMT2013-02-14T14:24:57Z

The chief executive of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) UK said everything was on track for the country’s first beverage carton reprocessing facility to come online from mid-2013.

Speaking to FoodProductionDaily.com, Richard Hands, said it was pivotal to ensure the supply was there before a mill was opened, with processing starting from June.

“It was an important part of our strategy, we have planned it for some years and the timing was important. We focussed on getting the material collected, so we had used EU mills until now and building up the tonnage to make the UK mill viable.

“There was no use building the mill when there was not enough collection as we would have had to source from abroad.”

Construction of the site is well under way with plant equipment almost ready for installation.

Site capability

An agreement was signed with Sonoco Alcore in June last year to establish the UK’s only beverage carton reprocessing facility in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

The plant will be capable of recycling 25,000 tonnes of cartons sorted from household and commercial waste streams.

Beverage cartons collected for recycling in the UK are currently sent to Sweden, Spain or Italy for reprocessing.

However, all used beverage cartons sorted by ACE UK from domestic and commercial waste will be reprocessed at the Sonoco Alcore paper mill.

Milk and fruit juice are core categories for cartons but solid ambient groceries such as peas, beans and tomatoes can also be placed in the chilled or ambient packaging.

ACE UK represents Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG Combibloc, who manufacturer beverage cartons for the UK market.

It is supported by BillerudKorsnäs and Stora Enso, which produce about 98% of the paperboard used by ACE UK members in beverage cartons in Europe.

Sonoco’s existing paper mill produces board for their packaging division and the carton recycle plant is being right next door.

Hands said the recycled cartons would provide a good feedstock for the firm’s products.

Sonoco Alcore will recycle the recycled paperboard layers into coreboard, ready to make tubes for consumer and industrial applications, such as cling film, textiles and paper.

UK boost

Another target was to switch away from bring-based systems where consumers had to take their cartons to collection points, to curbside collection by councils, Hands added.

“The UK had been lagging behind in Europe until recently with Germany and Northern Europe well organised on recycling for many years and they do it just on instinct.

“This move is a great start and if and when we fill the recycling capacity we will look at more capacity maybe in a few years.”

ACE said that while only 4% of local authorities collected cartons as part of their kerbside services in 2006, the figure had now increased to nearly 50%.

Beverage cartons are also now collected for recycling in almost 90% of local authority areas, compared to just 20% in 2006.