Tetra Pak partners with Veolia to improve recyclability of beverage carton components

Packaging giant Tetra Pak has partnered with global resource and waste management firm Veolia to develop technologies and infrastructure that will enable all components of beverage cartons to be recycled within the European Union (EU).

The companies will work together to develop innovative solutions to the challenge of recycling all of the carton components – and implement them at scale within the EU – by the end of 2025.

The scale of the challenge is notable, given that cartons typically consist of 75% paperboard, 20% plastic and 5% aluminium foil, making them hard to recycle.

Currently, the European market recycled paper pulp is described as “healthy” by Tetra Pak. The partnership, therefore, aims to spur growth in the market demand for recycled mixtures of polymers and aluminium, known as PolyAl mix.

Tetra Pak will work with Veolia to process the PolyAl mix at dedicated factories, converting it into raw materials more widely demanded across the plastic and packaging industries. The materials will then be shipped to companies across the EU, with the partnership keen to expand to more markets if the scheme proves successful.

“All materials from beverage cartons can be fully recycled into something new and useful,” Tetra Pak’s recycling director Lisa Ryden said.

“Our approach to recycling involves working with many partners along the value chain because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. With this partnership, we are combining our respective areas of expertise to find sustainable solutions for PolyAl recycling.”

The move from Tetra Pak forms part of the company’s target to recycle the equivalent of 40% of its annual packaging output by 2020, up from 26% in 2016.

In a bid to achieve this ambition, the firm joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100) initiative in 2015. At the time, Tetra Pak’s vice president Mario Abreu told edie that the CE100 membership would serve to unlock more paths to a circular economy and the company’s 2020 goals.

Carton network

In the UK, approximately two billion cartons are purchased each year and less than 10% are recycled. Conventional cartons consist of a laminate of several layers of plastic, which is tightly bonded to cardboard, rendering them unable to be processed by most UK recycling plants.

However, the latest ACE UK figures indicate that the kerbside collection of beverage cartons for recycling has seen a 16-fold increase across local authorities in the past decade, with 92% of UK local authorities now collecting cartons for recycling. 

Sarah George

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