Consumer Recycling FAQs
How do I find out where I can recycle my cartons?
It’s easy: visit www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk and click on our interactive map, or contact your local council. For recycling facilities in Ireland, please visit www.recycletogether.ie
Do I have to remove the plastic cap from the carton before recycling?No. The caps can be left on. They will be removed in the recycling process.
I can’t recycle cartons in my area, is there any other way to recycle them? We have worked hard over the past few years to make sure cartons are widely recyclable across the UK, with over 88% of Local Authorities now collecting cartons for recycling and 40% of Local Authorities doing so at the kerbside. There are still a few areas however that still do not collect cartons.
If you would like to see carton recycling available in your area, please let your Local Authority know that we can help them to set up collection schemes if they are interested.
If you would still like to recycle your cartons in the meantime, Tetra Pak® operates a postal recycling scheme for those who wish to recycle their cartons. For address labels and instructions on how to use the service, please click here. Please note that it is necessary to use the labels as printed. If you do not have access to a printer, please contact us and we will send you a pack of labels by post.
Why haven’t you managed to cover all of the UK? Just four years ago, there was very little collection of cartons for recycling in the UK, as very few Local Authorities had the facilities to collect them. Today, over eight out of ten local authority areas are already collecting cartons for recycling.
We know we still have some way to go, but we and our industry partners are committed to increasing the level of carton recycling in the UK.
But surely I have to drive to the bring banks - What’s the environmental impact of that?Our bring banks are sited at locations where multi-material recycling already takes places (e.g. municipal sites, supermarkets etc). We would recommend that the public wash and squash their cartons and bring them with other materials they are taking for recycling or visit a bring bank when they have a number of cartons to drop-off. It’s important to note that we see the bring banks as a first step – we recognise that the coverage they provide is not comprehensive and we are working with councils and waste contractors to try and enable a switch to inclusion in kerbside collections over the next few years.
What about kerbside collections? Just four years ago, there was very little collection of cartons for recycling in the UK, as no Local Authorities had the facilities to collect them. In order to bust the myth that cartons, such as those made by Tetra Pak, can’t be recycled, we needed to work with the local councils to encourage consumers to change their mindset and begin to recycle their cartons. This has started with bring banks in some locations, but kerbside collections in others.
Over the next few years, we will continue to work with Local Authorities to find ways to move to kerbside collection where possible. As awareness of carton recycling has increased, we have seen a significant shift to kerbside collection of cartons, with one in four Local Authorities now collecting cartons at the kerbside. This form of collection generally offers higher collection and recycling rates as it provides a more convenient collection solution to consumers.
My bin is overflowing, what are you doing about this? A number of our bring bank schemes are proving very popular and in a few locations this has led to the banks filling up quicker than expected. We are seeking to increase the number of bins at such locations or increase the frequency at which they are emptied or replace the existing banks with larger ones. To help us maximise the space available in the banks we ask you to please wash and squash your cartons first. You can fit three times as many cartons in a recycling bin if you do this and it helps keep trucks off the road. In the meantime, if your bin is overflowing, please contact your local council who will liaise with us/our partners to solve the problem.
What happens to the material collected? After the bring banks are emptied, the bales of cartons are bulked-up at regional ‘hubs’ until there is sufficient material to allow a transport-efficient trip to the paper mill. To find out more about how cartons are recycled, please click here.
Why can’t you just get rid of the layers? In a nutshell, the materials in our cartons provide the best protection for the drinks inside them. The paperboard (made from wood from managed northern European forests) provides strength and stiffness, the polyethylene makes the packages liquid tight and provides a barrier to micro-organisms, whilst the aluminum foil keeps out oxygen and light, to ensure the food doesn’t become contaminated, deteriorate or change flavour.
In this way, the contents of a longlife package can last for several months without the need for refrigeration or preservatives. Using small amounts of plastic and aluminum also allows paperboard to be used as the main material.
Is there a waxy coating on your cartons? - Isn’t that why they are difficult to recycle? No, there is no wax in cartons. There are various modern mills in Europe that easily recycle cartons. Unfortunately, the technology/equipment in most UK mills cannot at present cope with large volumes of cartons. We are continuing to trial carton recycling at a number of UK facilities and hope to have a UK recycling capacity soon.
Why can’t I put in other paper-based packages, such as cereal boxes? To recover the high quality paper fibres from the carton, the paper must be separated from the aluminium and polyethylene. Cereal boxes and other similar forms of packaging do not contain liquids so they don’t require aluminium and polyethylene to preserve their structural integrity or keep the contents fresh. The ‘greyboard’ used in such packaging also does not contain the same high-quality fibres that are found in cartons and mixing them reduces the value of the post-recycling material.
Where do the collected cartons go? Currently, cartons collected in the UK are principally being recycled in paper mills in Northern Europe, particularly in Sweden. In July 2012, an announcement was made by ACE UK (Alliance of Beverage Cartons for the Environment) about a new UK based recycling (or reprocessing) plant that will convert baled material into industrial strength cardboard cores, polymers into fuels and aluminium into flakes by early 2013. This is great news for recycling in the UK as the introduction of a UK based reprocessing plant will inevitably lead to increased recycling rates.
Why isn’t there a UK paper mill? It has always been the ambition of ACE (Alliance of Beverage Cartons for the Environment) to have domestic UK-based recycling. In July 2012 an agreement was reached with Sonoco Alcore to provide a new UK based recycling (or reprocessing) plant that will convert baled material into industrial strength cardboard cores, polymers into fuels and aluminium into flakes by early 2013.
The Smith Anderson mill in Fife used to be able to recycle all cartons collected in the UK, but it had to close in 2006 due largely to the effects of significantly increased energy costs on their main paper recycling business. Smith Anderson was far from alone in this with many other mills closing for similar reasons at that time.
Since then we have put a lot of work into researching solutions and establishing the agreement with Sonoco Alcore and are confident that it is economically as well as environmentally sustainable. For example, since the closure of the Smith Anderson mill, beverage carton recycling rates have increased significantly in the UK (kerbside coverage has increased tenfold in just six years), generating a greater and more consistent supply to the new mill. Plus, we are creating a domestic market for used beverage cartons.