UK to get beverage carton recycling facility

25 June 2012

By Will Date

Beverage carton recycling is to recommence in the UK following a deal between carton manufacturers and a cardboard packaging producer in West Yorkshire.

The Alliance for Beverage Cartons & the Environment (ACE UK) announced today (June 25) that it has signed a ten-year agreement with Sonoco Alcore that will see beverage cartons reprocessed at the company’s paper mill in Halifax.

Beverage cartons will be reprocessed in the UK from 2013 at Sonoco Alcore's paper mill in Halifax, West Yorkshire
Beverage cartons will be reprocessed in the UK from 2013 at Sonoco Alcore's paper mill in Halifax, West Yorkshire

No UK-based reprocessing facility has existed for beverage cartons since the closure of the Smith Anderson paper mill in Fife, Scotland in 2006. Instead, material has had to be exported to countries in Europe including Sweden and Italy.


Cartons will be reprocessed at the plant from 2013. The facility will be capable of recycling 25,000 tonnes-a-year of cartons sorted from household and commercial waste streams.

Currently, ACE UK, which represents carton manufacturers Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc and Elopak, owns a network of bring banks at local authority sites across the country. Material from these bring banks will be collected by ACE UK and sent to the Sonoco Alcore plant for reprocessing.

However ACE UK only sees bring banks as an ‘interim-measure’ and following the development of the new facility it is hoped that more councils will begin collecting drinks cartons at the kerbside now that a UK market exists to process the material.

Additional material will come from local authorities who have already begun collecting beverage cartons at the kerbside.


Material reprocessed at the Halifax plant will be used to produce paperboard layers in consumer and industrial products such as cling film tubes and cores for rolls of textiles.

Richard Hands, chief executive of ACE UK, said: “This decision underlines the firm commitment of our members to constantly improve the environmental performance of their beverage cartons. The already low carbon footprint will become even lower, valuable materials will go back into reprocessed in this country.

“We are confident that by December 2013 a further ten local authorities will have started collecting cartons in their kerbside service, sending them to the new mill for recycling by ACE UK and Sonoco Alcore.”

Paper from drinks cartons will be used to manufacture paperboard cores for items such as cling film tubes
Paper from drinks cartons will be used to manufacture paperboard cores for items such as cling film tubes

Beverage cartons are made up of around 75% cardboard, 21% polyethylene and 4% aluminium. Equipment to separate each fraction of the beverage cartons is due to be installed at the Halifax mill, where the cardboard fibre element will then be reprocessed.

ACE UK and Sonoco Alcore are currently seeking a suitable end use for the aluminium and polyethylene fractions of the cartons.


The separation process will involve a pulping cycle, where cartons will be pulped into slurry which will then be diluted to wash away the cardboard fibre from the polymers and aluminium foil.

Adam Wood, vice president of industrial converting at Sonoco Alcore, Europe, said: “Our company has a long history of recycling and reuse, and this opportunity with ACE UK strengthens our focus on sustainability. This partnership provides us with the fibre we need to produce our engineered tubes and cores, and we are looking forward to receiving a growing stream of cartons.

“Additionally, as an integrated manufacturer, it is important for us to know our material sources and we know ACE UK members are committed to sourcing from responsibly managed forests. This partnership has brought real business benefits to our UK operations while supporting our sustainable business practices.”

There is thought to be a strong desire among the public to recycle beverage cartons, with a survey conducted by ACE UK member Tetra Pak revealing that more than half (58%) of UK adults saying they would be more likely to recycle their used food and drink cartons knowing that they would be recycled into other materials in the UK instead of being shipped abroad for recycling.

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Sonoco Alcore

The announcement of the deal has been welcomed by the Waste and Resources Action Programme’s (WRAPs) head of & collections and quality Linda Crichton, who said: “This announcement of a new UK-based reprocessing capacity for beverage cartons is welcomed by WRAP. With the steady increase in collections of cartons for recycling over recent years the ability to now recycle these in the UK is good news for local authorities and their waste management contractors. I’m sure it will also encourage others to add cartons to their kerbside recycling services.”