Trade group the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) UK has reported that local authorities collecting cartons for recycling from the kerbside has hit 66%.
However, ACE UK was unable to give an indication of the actual UK recycling rate for cartons.
According to ACE UK, 66% is a milestone in terms of availability of carton collections, as it represents a more than 16-fold increase on 2006 levels when just 4% of local authorities collected cartons at the kerbside.
Some of the cartons are recycled at a dedicated beverage carton recycling facility at the Stainland paper mill, West Yorkshire, in a joint venture between the trade group and its partner Sonoco Alcore.
The facility, is said to be capable of recycling 25,000 tonnes of cartons sorted from household and commercial waste streams although ACE UK said it could not release any details of actual tonnages being handled by Sonoco.
ACE UK reports that the facility currently receives cartons from 35% of local authorities, through kerbside and bring bank schemes. A spokesperson for ACE UK said the rest of the cartons collected go to a number of other facilities to be recycled.
Beverage cartons are recycled using a pulping process, where the paperboard and non-fibre layers are separated and turned into new materials.
According to ACE UK, the paper fibres can be used to produce new high-strength paper products, such as cores and tubes for consumer and industrial applications.
Recovered polymer and aluminium layers – material known as polyAl – from the beverage cartons is sent to be recycled at a “high quality”, “fully-audited” recycling plant in China.
ACE UK said it continues to look at options for polyAl recycling, with the long term aim of finding a UK solution as technology develops.
According to the spokesperson, in China the polyAl goes through a mechanical process that separates the polyethelene element (film, straws, caps) from the aluminium. The polyethelene is used to manufacture items such as garden furniture and play mats and the aluminium is recycled and used in place of virgin aluminium in industrial processes.
However, the spokesperson was not able to confirm if the polyAl from other facilities taking in cartons is also recycled.
The group said the increase in kerbside collection provision follows close co-operation between ACE UK itself with local authorities and consumer groups.
ACE UK has a network of bring-bank systems for cartons at local authority sites. When these councils are included, the group says 92% of UK authorities now collect cartons for recycling.
One council which recently began collecting cartons at the kerbside is South Hams district council in South Devon.
Neil Greenhalgh, operational manager for waste at South Hams district council said: “We have listened to residents, reviewed suggestions, and made changes based on this feedback.
“This is a major milestone for recycling in the South Hams. Residents already recycle a lot of cartons at recycling banks and this will enable residents to recycle at home as well.”
Richard Hands, chief executive of ACE UK commented: “It is great news that South Hams district council is now collecting beverage cartons at kerbside, taking us to the 66% milestone.”