After beverage cartons have been collected, either from the kerbside or via the bring bank system, they are taken to a sorting or bulking facility. Here, they are sorted and separated through either manual or automated means to maximise recyclate quality.
If beverage cartons are collected in the same container as other packaging materials, such as plastic, metal and glass, they can be separated before being baled and sent for reprocessing. Where beverage cartons are collected with paper, they can either be separated at the sorting facility or recycled as part of a mixed fibre stream, depending on the requirement of the mill.
At the paper mill, baled cartons are dropped into a pulper, similar to a giant domestic food mixer, filled with water and pulped for around 20 minutes. This delaminates the packaging and breaks it down to produce a slurry. The aluminium foil and polyethylene liners are then separated from the fibre for recycling into new products or energy recovery.
Beverage carton recycling in the UK