Used beverage cartons on the way to the recycling plant. Photo: FKN
Benelux to recycle beverage cartons
Beverage cartons consist of valuable raw materials that can be recycled. A plant near Cologne, Germany, has already proven that beverage carton recycling is technically possible as of last year. Now, two beverage carton manufacturers are assessing its feasibility in the Benelux countries together.
The two big industry players Stora Enso and Tetra Pak want to make beverage carton recycling possible in the Benelux countries and are currently conducting a joint feasibility study for this purpose at Stora Enso’s site in Langerbrugge, Belgium. In Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, about 75,000 tons of beverage cartons are put into circulation every year, a figure that is set to increase in future. Over 70 percent of this amount is already slated for collection. However, the Benelux countries don’t have an infrastructure for recycling beverage cartons yet. The cooperation of the two companies now aims to create a complete composite carton recycling system, not only for the Benelux countries but also for the neighbouring regions.
Beverage cartons are made of valuable raw materials that should be recycled. Photo: Stora Enso
Recovering all raw materials
As part of the recycling project, Stora Enso intends to process the collected beverage cartons and recover the high-grade fibres they contain. These are a suitable basic material for manufacturing corrugated cardboard base paper made of recycled paper. The fibres are also to be processed at the Langerbrugge site, meeting the demand for recyclable paper-based packaging solutions. In the planned recycling solution, Tetra Pak will secure the polymer and aluminium materials that will be processed by a partner firm.
Plastic and aluminium from used beverage cartons. Photo: FKN
The recycling project is associated with a further feasibility study that Stora Enso announced recently regarding the possible conversion of one of the paper lines at the Langerbrugge site into a large-volume facility for corrugated cardboard base paper made of recycled paper. This study is expected to be concluded in the first half of 2023. If the company then decides to invest, the recycling carton facility will go into operation in 2025. The same schedule applies for the joint study with Tetra Pak. Initially, it is estimated that the planned facility in Langerbrugge will produce 50,000 tons of recycled carton per year; this amount could possibly be increased in future.
First plant in Germany already in operation
According to the Fachverband Kartonverpackungen für flüssige Nahrungsmittel e.V. (Federal Association of Cardboard Packaging for Liquid Foodstuffs, FKN), recycling beverage cartons is technically not much more complex than recycling newspapers or corrugated cardboard. Since 2017, its member companies Elopak, SIG Combibloc and Tetra Pak have invested around eight million euros in the construction of an own recycling plant in Hürth near Cologne that went into operation in the spring of 2021. For the first time, it is now possible to completely recycle cardboard packaging in Germany and to reuse the plastic and aluminium content as well as the paper fibres.
Corrugated cardboard base paper, manufactured from the fibres of used beverage cartons. Photo: FKN