Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tetra Pak Recycling in Lewisham

I was pleased to learn today that special collection bins to recycle Tetra Paks are to be introduced to 5 sites in Lewisham.

Ruscombe Green blogged last year about a scheme whereby individuals could post their cartons back to Tetra Pak to recycle. More recently I found out about a scheme Tetra Pak are investing in to introduce recycling facilities into various local authorities . I contacted Lewisham's Strategic Waste & Environment Manager to ask if we could also apply for this, but she was already on the case!

The cartons can be recycled through special collection bins at 5 sites in the borough:- Sainsbury, New Cross Gate- Sainsbury, Forest Hill- Laurence House car park, Catford- Grove Park Bus Garage, Baring Road- Tesco, Lewisham. Hopefully a site a bit closer to Brockley or Ladywell will be added soon - by the existing recycling bins outside Brockley Sorting Office might be handy.

It's good that Tetra Pak are putting some money into this, and not before time. Perhaps it is a sign that the packaging industry as a whole is slowly waking up to its environmental responsibilities? A cynic would argue that it's great value PR for a highly profitable industry under increasing pressure to clean up its act.

It is probably still greener and less energy intensive to avoid Tetra Paks where possible, eg by getting your milk delivered in reusable glass bottles and getting bottles of Kent Apple Juice from Hilly Fields Farmers' Market as opposed to cartons of juice from the supermarket, but recycling Tetra Paks is still better than incincerating them, in my opinion (the more we can starve SELCHP, the better).

Further details, from the council's press release:
Each year, UK beverage carton manufacturers produce approximately 55,000 tonnes of paper-based cartons for milk, juice, sauces and other liquid foods/drinks. This equates to around 2.3kg of cartons per household which could be recycled instead of thrown in the rubbish bin. In response, Lewisham Council, in conjunction with Tetra Pak Ltd and the carton industry body ACE UK (Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment), has established carton collection points at key locations around the borough for residents to take their empty cartons to be recycled.

Once collected they can be taken away to be baled and transported to a recycling mill. They can be recycled into a number of different products, ranging from plasterboard liner to high-strength paper bags and envelopes.

Carton Recycling Process
Beverage cartons consist of up to three main materials:
Paperboard (typically 70-90%)
Low density polyethylene (typically 10-25%)
Aluminium foil (about 5%, only in long-life or aseptic packages)

The carton recycling process is essentially quite simple. 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, breaking down the package to produce a grey-brown slurry. The aluminium foil and polyethylene are separated from the fibre, which is recovered to make new paper products.

Wood fibres become shorter and lose some strength every time they are recycled, and can only be recycled about five times. This means that there always has to be an input of virgin material into the papermaking process to maintain quality.

The long, high-strength fibres of these cartons means there is a reduced need to buy virgin pulp. In the UK, the recovered fibre is used to manufacture new high-strength products such as paper carrier bags and envelopes.

4 comments:

Susan Wise said...

Sue
The introduction of Tetrapak receycling is only one of Lewisham Council's initiatives to not only encourage everyone in the borough to recycle more, but to make receycling easier. As our press release says, as Cabinet Member for Customer Service, I am very pleased to see this introduction.
regards
Susan Wise

Shasha Khan said...

Gosh! Tetra Pak! TETRA PAK! We can only dream of Tetra Pak recycling in Croydon.

Shasha

Inspector Sands said...

Tetra Pak recycling has also arrived, without fanfare, in Greenwich borough. (Or at least in the car park of Asda in Charlton.)

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