Recyclability and recycling
Elopak’s products have been recyclable for decades, but we know that is not enough. Knowing that recycling needs an efficient infrastructure, we continue to drive the recycling agenda forward year by year.
It is important to highlight that recyclability and recycling are not interchangeable terms. Recyclability precedes recycling: Elopak cartons are recyclable with existing technology. In fact, our cartons are currently recycled in about 20 paper mills across Europe. Our cartons’ recycling, however, depends not only on the materials used to make the cartons, but on the correct disposal of the cartons once they have been fulfilled their purpose, and on the existence of a functioning waste collection and sorting structure.
Recycling is fundamental to the circularity of Elopak cartons. Elopak supports requirements for recyclability and circularity, which are evident in regulatory developments all over the world and particularly in Europe.
Elopak believes responsible sourcing and increased recycling of all packaging is fundamental for a just transition to a low carbon circular economy.
We see recyclability and recycling as two parallel streams: In addition to securing the use of highly recyclable materials in our products, we need a well-functioning infrastructure to ensure the materials are actually being recycled.
I appreciate the possibility of being a part of a company that sees environmental responsibility as a part of daily business life and always looks for opportunities to improve environmental performance.
Rainer Hartmann, Senior Program Manager Circular Economy
Recycling rates are inherently a result of well-functioning collection and sorting systems.
Consumer awareness and collaboration are fundamental to improve collection and increase recycling. It must be convenient for consumers to dispose of their packaging, which is why our industry supports broad and frequent waste collection, and harmonised sorting through labels and pictograms.
Collaboration between different stakeholders is key to tackle the waste issue and to ensure that recycling rates significantly increase. Municipalities, waste management companies, sorting centres, industry and recyclers need to work together. We are confident that the recycling rate of paper based packaging can and will continue to increase thanks to both the new legal requirements under EU waste legislation to separately collect all packaging materials for recycling and the efforts of the industry’s pan-European recycling platform, EXTR:ACT
Elopak participates in multiple associations and industry partnerships to support the continued improvement of the collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure for our paper-based cartons. We commit to increase recycling rates in the countries where we operate.
100% recyclable beverage cartons in all markets by 2025
70% of all beverage cartons are recycled in EU and Canada by 2030
a) % cartons recycled EU
b) % cartons recycled Canada
c) % househoulds with access to recycling in USA
a) 51% (2019)
About 20 paper mills across Europe currently recycle collected beverage cartons. Recycling beverage cartons is a simple process. The first step is to separate the fibres from the packaging through different special dissolving technology in a paper mill. The long fibres used to produce beverage cartons are highly appreciated by recyclers. Once recycled, the fibres are used to produce new paper products, while the remaining non-paper fraction can be used for a variety of other applications.
Both the private sector (e.g. in Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic) and the beverage carton industry have invested in recycling of the non-paper fraction of beverage cartons. The industry initiative Palurec GmbH is now operational in Cologne.
The map below shows the current facilities recycling beverage cartons. There are 4 initiatives recycling the non-paper fraction, and through these, roughly 30% of the European volume can be recycled. The recovered materials can be used in different applications as a substitute for virgin material. Further expansion of these processing options is expected in the near future.
The beverage carton recycling rate in Europe has steadily increased over the past two decades. In 2019, the carton recycling rate in the EU was 51%*. Some European countries reach recycling rates above 70%, while there is still room for increased recycling participation in other countries.
While Elopak has recycling as one of its KPIs, it is not possible to report on 2020 recycling rates for beverage cartons in the European market, as Member States need more time to adapt to the new reporting method on recycling rates. This uncertainty related to the implementation of the calculation also means delays on official data release as compared to previous years.
We recognize measuring actions to tackle waste management is challenging, particularly when it comes to finding an agreement on the measurement of waste which gets recycled. We will report on the recycling rates as soon as the updated and verified information is available.
In Canada, recycling rates were calculated to 55% in 2021, a decrease of 1% from last year. In USA, access to recycling remains at a steady 60%.
*Based on the then calculation method.
Recycling remains an important priority area for Elopak, and during 2022, we aim to continue our relentless work with both our own product development to ensure we produce cartons that are recyclable in all markets where we operate, and towards regional and local legislators to ensure beverage cartons are collected, sorted and recycled in our markets.
The member companies of Fachverband Kartonverpackungen für flüssige Nahrungsmittel e.V. have together invested around 8 million Euros in the construction of the Palurec recycling plant on the site of the chemical park in Hürth near Cologne.Read more
Intelligent sorting with digital watermarksRead more