About cartons

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are cartons made from?

Beverage cartons are made, on average, from 75% wood fibre in the form of paperboard. Thin layers of plastic (polyethylene) is also required to ensure the carton is water-tight. An even thinner layer of aluminium can also be used in long-life cartons to help protect the contents over long periods. Plastic (mainly low density polyethylene and polypropylene) is used in closures and, as with all the other materials in the carton, is recyclable.

Why do the cartons need aluminium and polyethylene layers?

Very fine aluminium foil serves as a barrier to light, aromas, and oxygen, which enables the contents to last for months without preservatives or refrigeration. The polyethylene acts as a water-tight barrier. It is this resource-efficient combination that allows paperboard – a natural, renewable resource – to be used as the main material.

Where does the wood fibre come from that goes into my carton?

Sweden and Finland provide the vast majority of wood used to produce paperboard for beverage cartons in Europe. The rest comes from the Baltics, South America, Russia (although this is decreasing) and other countries, such as the UK. All of the wood is traceable to legal and acceptable sources. Click here for more information.

Where can I recycle my cartons?

ACE UK has worked hard to ensure that 92% of UK local authorities collect cartons, through a combination of kerbside and bring bank collection. The number of UK local authorities offering a kerbside collection of beverage cartons is increasing all the time (currently 66%), and we are pursuing this further. Use our interactive map to find your nearest beverage carton recycling facilities.

Do I have to remove the caps before recycling?

No. The caps can be left on the carton as they will be removed in the recycling process. However, it’s helpful to wash and then squash your carton. The washing helps reduce contamination and squashing helps with space efficiency.

Where do the collected cartons go?

All used beverage cartons collected via ACE UK from domestic and commercial waste now go to our new recycling facility at the Sonoco Alcore paper mill in Stainland, West Yorkshire (read more here or watch our animation). ACE UK is encouraging local authorities and waste management companies who run kerbside collections, to also utilise this facility as it has various financial and environmental benefits.

Is there a waxy coating on your cartons? Does that make them difficult to recycle?

No, there is no wax in cartons and they are easy to recycle. People often mistake the outer polyethylene layer as a wax coating.

I work for a local authority/community recycling network and we’re interested in starting beverage carton recycling collections from the kerbside. How can you help?

Please contact the ACE UK recycling team on 01606 530324 or enquiries@ace-uk.co.uk. We will be able to talk you through the specification for carton recycling and what the process is from here on in.

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Beverage carton recycling in the UK

  • Total no. of
  • Local authorities collecting
    361 (92%)
  • Local authorities collecting cartons from kerbside 259 (66%)
Interactive map Where can
I recycle?
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interactive map
Increasing carton recycling Increasing carton recycling Watch the video Responsibly-managed forestry Responsibly-managed
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Copyright © 2013 The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE)