Increasing carton recycling

Despite a significant increase in the number of households in the UK that have access to beverage carton recycling, ACE UK aims to increase collections further – not only from households, but also from on-the-go channels such as aeroplane journeys or on-street recycling, as well as catering establishments and prisons.

The ACE UK recycling team works in close partnership with all waste stakeholders, from local authorities and waste management companies to Government agencies and retailers.

Our main collection partners are local authorities, of which there are over 400 in the UK with a responsibility for collecting waste. Each collect different recyclable materials using different methods, although there is some common infrastructure, which gives us a preferred collection hierarchy. Our aim is to have as many local authorities as possible operating at the highest levels of the hierarchy.

Carton Hierarchy

We are seeing good results. In 2006 only 4% of local authorities collected cartons as part of their kerbside service. In December 2012, 47% of councils collected beverage cartons as part of their kerbside service. By the beginning of 2015, the figure had risen to 60% of UK Local Authorities collecting cartons at kerbside. 

ACE UK no longer offers the carton recycling bring bank scheme to new local authorities that did not previously sign up to the scheme in 2007 but until local authorities are in a position to collect cartons from the kerbside, we will continue to provide the bring bank scheme to those councils that already have it in place because it is a good interim measure.

In September 2013, ACE UK opened the UK's only beverage carton recycling facility near Halifax, West Yorkshire which provides a clearly-defined domestic end destination for used beverage cartons.   Local authorities can also take advantage of a stable price per tonne for cartons delivered – a better, more sustainable option compared to the price fluctuations on the global commodities market.

UK-based reprocessing reduces costs, lowers transport emissions by reducing the distance beverage cartons travel to be reprocessed and recycled into new products, and significantly improves the carton recycling business case. As a result, more local authorities will be incentivised to collect cartons as part of their kerbside services, making it more convenient for householders to recycle their cartons, increasing recycling rates.

The carton hierarchy shown above is used to prioritise which local authorities are most likely to be able to switch to kerbside collection of cartons, and ensures that the time and resources of the ACE UK recycling team are used most effectively. This information, therefore, guides ACE UK’s ‘Cartons at Kerbside Strategy’.

ACE UK cartons at kerbside strategy

ACE UK has a six-step strategy for increasing kerbside recycling of beverage cartons:

Six-step kerbside strategy

The recycling team has been working to the strategy since 2007, delivering real results. Most recently, ACE UK  launched re:cartons, a clear, consumer-friendly, recycling campaign identity to improve the impact and reach of our communications. This signals the start of Step 6  of the strategy: to communicate widely on the benefits of recycling and the infrastructure available.

ACE UK actively seeks partnerships in the industry, working closely with local authorities and waste management companies. As well as collection, we also place emphasis on working in close collaboration with others, including the paper and board manufacturers, and recycling technology companies.

Related downloads The carton recycling process
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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%)
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Copyright © 2013 The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE)