Manufacturers Tetra Pak, Elopak and Combibloc have teamed up with paper and packaging producer Sonoco Alcore to open a dedicated carton recycling facility in Stainland, Yorkshire.

The plant, which can take up to 1.25 billion cartons a year, is expected to “significantly boost recycling rates”, and save local authorities £3.6m on landfill taxes and gate fees.

Collection services for food and drink cartons have, historically, been peripheral in the UK – at least compared with PET plastic bottles.

According to WRAP, 93% of councils were collecting plastic bottles at the kerbside in 2011/12. This compares to the 39% that took cartons, though some offer services at bring sites.

In all, cartons are collected in over 364 local authority areas, with 211 collecting from the road side. By the end of 2013, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) UK said it expected “dramatic” improvements in recycling services and rates with the new facility in place.

ACE UK chief executive Richard Hands said: “The number of local authorities collecting cartons at the kerbside has increased more than ten-fold in the last six years. We expect more cartons to be collected in this way now that local authorities have a secure domestic market for this material stream.”

Speaking at the opening today, minister for resource management Lord de Mauley said he was “delighted” to see more recycling staying in the UK for recovery.

Cartons are not the easiest waste stream to process given the fine polymer and aluminium layers used to prevent leakage and provide a protective barrier to oxygen respectively.

These layers will be separated from the wood fibres as part of the recycling process but the exact approach used is “still being assessed”. A UK-solution will be in place by 2014. Until then, the polythene and aluminium will be stored rather than landfilled or exported.

Sonoco Alcore will take the virgin wood fibres and turn them into industrial-strength coreboard at its paper mill located on the same site. This will then be made into 100% recyclable tubes and cores.

Plans to develop the facility were unveiled in June last year, largely due to research showing the increasing consumer demand for recycling this material.

edie staff

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