4 partnerships to advance cardboard recycling
Recycling is a key driver of a low carbon circular economy in the food and beverage industries. And while we have seen encouraging progress in the collection, sorting and recycling of used food and drink cartons, there is still a long way to go. Specifically, there is still work to be done to improve the entire recycling value chain, to connect collectors to industries that transform cardboard packaging into new materials and to find innovations to expand opportunities in different markets for cardboard boxes to be recycled for added value. some products.
As the world’s largest food packaging company, Tetra Pak is committed to leading sustainable transformation not only with innovations in packaging, processing equipment and services, but also with innovations in new technologies for facilitate the recycling of cardboard packaging.
Here are four examples of how collaboration between stakeholders in different countries of the Americas can be part of the solution to improve the recycling value chain and continue to protect the planet.
1. United States: reinventing cardboard sorting thanks to technology.
In the United States, the Carton Council is a non-profit organization of cardboard manufacturers that works to support recycling technology and local collection programs. As part of these efforts, the Cardboard Council provides grants to material recovery facilities (MRFs) that pick up and sort recycled items. Grants allow MRFs to acquire different types of equipment to help sort boxes. More recently, this equipment has started to include robotic systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) to sort cartons, increasing efficiency and accuracy.
Napa recycling, an MRF from Napa, Calif., received a grant from the Carton Council to support the purchase of a robot to sort cardboard boxes and other materials. Prior to acquiring the robotic system, Napa Recycling was a longtime champion of cardboard recycling in the California Bay Area. In 2019, he started picking up bales of sorted boxes from other MRFs to group them into full trucks. “Cardboard has a constant market, but we don’t have as many cardboard volumes as other materials,” says Tim Dewey-Mattia, recycling and public education manager at Napa Recycling. By consolidating boxes from other FRMs, he is able to get a full truckload of boxes in less time. This frees up valuable storage space in MRFs and helps increase cardboard recycling in the region.
The robot was installed in early 2020. It allows Napa Recycling to capture twice as many boxes as before and frees up employees to do more specialized work on the sorting line. It also creates a safer workplace by minimizing the number of high-risk repetitive tasks that employees may have to perform.
The robot was created by AMP robotics, a company that applies AI and robotics to modernize recycling infrastructure. “With the support of organizations like the Carton Council, we are seeing an increasing use of these technologies in recycling,” says Carling Spelhaug, Marketing Communications Manager at AMP Robotics. “AI opens up opportunities that advance a more circular economy and make recycling a bigger part of the waste ecosystem.”
2. Brazil: generate value with new markets.
Tetra Pak has worked with Revita, a Brazilian recycler, since 2007. To support Revita and increase cardboard recycling rates, we have invested in new equipment at its plant to increase its capacity to process and clean polyAl (polyethylene and aluminum). The investment allows Revita to dry and clean the polyAl used, removing all residual fibers, water and other contaminants, making it easier to sell as plastic. This investment has supported the development of new markets, such as extrusion, injection and rotational molding, which allows recyclers to generate additional value.
Another interesting case in Brazil concerns the Brazilian beverage company Do Bem, which aims to “turn waste into items that can make a difference in people’s lives,” according to Tiago Schmidt, marketing manager at Do Bem.
The project aims to ensure that 100% of Tetra Pak packaging used for its range of healthy drinks – including teas, coconut water and children’s juices – is recycled, either in secondary packaging or in products that can be used in a range of social products. recycling promotion initiatives.
To launch the project, Do Bem partnered with the Brazilian company Muzzicycles – a pioneer in the manufacture of bicycles from recycled materials – to transform some 8,000 boxes into 20 branded bicycles. These were donated to various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Rio de Janeiro. Future initiatives include the creation of glasses, houses and tiles for low-income people (in partnership with NGOs School and TETO), as well as furniture. The goal is to save 1,000 tonnes of packaging waste per year.
3. Mexico: open up recycling channels.
Bio Pappel, the largest manufacturer of paper products in Mexico and Latin America, has used recycled beverage cartons in its products for years. Most of the cardboard in this region was made from bleached cardboard, which Bio Pappel recycled to make paper products. With the introduction of unbleached duplex cardboard boxes, we had to find new recycling solutions while expanding the market for duplex cardboard products.
We worked with Bio Pappel to achieve this by investing in two key components to adapt and improve the recycling value chain.
First, we have supported Bio Pappel with the installation of a baling press in its collection center which has significantly increased the volume of used bleached and duplex beverage cartons that can be recycled.
Second, we have supported Bio Pappel with the installation of new equipment to help it adapt the pulp production line it has dedicated to recycling used duplex beverage cartons. This adaptation will also make it possible to recover up to 85% of polyAl from the cardboard boxes.
This new recycling system will generate demand and create a significant market for duplex cartons; we expect it to produce 24,000 tonnes of cardboard made from recycled cardboard annually.
4. Ecuador: develop the use of recycled packaging.
In Ecuador, polyAl has become a widely used material for sustainable construction due to its characteristics and properties. Ecuaplastic, one of our recycling partners, develops innovative products – such as outdoor and indoor furniture – from recycled beverage cartons. Its unique designs and high quality products allow it to sell its furniture in Ecuador, as well as other countries in the region.
We are seeing polyAl used in a number of construction applications across the country, such as mining camps, buildings with polyAl walls, and urban gardens. More recently, polyAl building materials have been used on the Huaira hut, a 430 square foot retreat in Puerto Quito, Ecuador.
These are just a few examples from the Americas and around the world that demonstrate how working with partners achieves different sustainability goals and improves the value of recyclable materials.
It is through collaboration and an open and continuous dialogue between key stakeholders along the recycling value chain that the industry will accelerate the recycling rates of used beverage cartons and realize the value of recycled materials. .