Bottoms Up: EU Drinks Carton Recycling Rate Pushes Past 45 Per Cent Mark

Photo: TetraPak

Europe is now recycling almost half its cardboard drinks cartons as progressing on cutting waste within the trading bloc continues.

The recycling rate for cardboard drinks cartons hit 47 per cent in 2016 – up from 44 per cent the previous year – according to the latest figures released this week.

According to the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) trade body, approximately 430,000 tonnes of cardboard drinks cartons were recycled at in 2016 at 20 paper mills across Europe.

It marks an upwards trend for carton recycling across the continent that remains unbroken since 2005, when the rate was below 30 per cent.

The total rate including both recycling and energy recovery of cartons, meanwhile, hit 76 per cent last year, said ACE.

Director general of ACE, Annick Carpentier, welcomed the figures. “Separate collection is a key element in any type of recycling, and the continued increase in the beverage carton recycling rate across Europe indicates that beverage cartons are increasingly being collected, allowing them to be recycled,” she said.

Richard Hands, chief executive of ACE UK – which represents UK carton manufacturers Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG Combibloc – said significant progress had been made since the early 1990s, when the trade body first began tracking the recycling rate.

“In the UK our focus has been on building access to recycling facilities for all,” said Hands. “This year we hit our milestone of two out of every three or 66 per cent of UK local authorities collecting beverage cartons at kerbside for recycling. And when recycling banks are included, 92 per cent of local authorities now collect beverage cartons for recycling, ensuring that the vast majority of households in the UK have access to a carton collection system.”

The announcement came as the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee of MPs relaunched its inquiry into the billions of coffee cups and plastic bottles that are thrown to waste in the UK each year. The select committee was unable to complete its inquiry earlier in the year due to the General Election being called.