Tetra Pak and Veolia optimize food carton recycling

Posted on 26 February 2019.

In November 2018, Veolia and Tetra Pak joined forces in a new circular challenge to recycle 100% of the constituents used to make carton packages for food and beverages.

Goal: by 2025 recycle 100% of the constituents used to make carton packages for food and beverages in the European Union.

Cartons of milk, orange juice and soup... 85,000 metric tons of carton packages for food and beverages are sold in France every year. Although across Europe 44% of these packages are recycled, the recycling process is far from optimal. The issue? The multi-material composition of the cartons. They contain 75% cardboard, now widely recycled, along with 20% plastic and 5% aluminum, still rarely recycled. The paperboard fibers are recycled into pulp and used to make household products such as paper towels and toilet paper. But what about the rest? Usually the remaining plastic and aluminum compound residue - called PolyAl – goes to landfill or is incinerated. A real waste, because it has a number of interesting properties. In fact, PolyAl is a flexible, waterproof, highly resistant and rot-proof material. Which means it could be a real resource!


Better recycling reuses everything

This is exactly what Tetra Pak and Veolia have been working on since they signed a new partnership in November 2018. The goal within the European Union is to recycle 100% of the constituents used to make these carton packages by 2025. To meet the challenge, the two companies aim to transform PolyAl into raw materials that can be used by the plastics industry. In 2019, Veolia will start building a plant entirely dedicated to PolyAl recycling. After processing, the material can be used to manufacture crates, plastic pallets and even outdoor furniture.

For the time being the project is being organized on a European scale. But given how promising it is, the idea could well catch on all over the world... Young designers are already working on this innovative and environmentally friendly material. There’s no doubt about it, PolyAl has a bright future!