On 29 April, the Palurec recycling plant on the site of the Knapsack Chemical Park near Cologne was officially opened, heralding the dawn of a new era in beverage carton recycling. That’s because the commissioning of this state-of-the-art plant, which separates and recycles the foil mixture of polyethylene (PE) and aluminium (Al) as well as the plastic closures after the detaching of the paper fibres, has increased the recyclability of our packaging to well over 90 per cent!
Now we fetch the rest: PE-aluminium recycling of used beverage cartons
More than three million tons of beverage cartons have been recycled in Germany until today. The cellulose fibres recovered are longer and stronger than most other types of recycled paper and are thus particularly well suited for the manufacture of corrugated board.
Detaching the paper fibres creates residual materials in the paper mill. These predominantly consist of a foil mixture of polyethylene (PE) and aluminium (AL) as well as high density polyethylene (HDPE) originating from the caps. The producers of beverage cartons are now taking the recycling of this so-called reject into their own hands. For this purpose, Palurec GmbH was founded as a wholly owned subsidiary of Fachverband Getränkekartons für flüssige Nahrungsmittel e.V. (FKN), which has invested in the construction of a recycling plant. It took just under three years to build the plant, with the companies Elopak GmbH, SIG Combibloc GmbH and Tetra Pak GmbH & Co.KG investing around eight million euros in the project – an investment that will pay off in so many ways. As Palurec produces commercially viable secondary raw materials from the residual materials of beverage carton recycling – the aluminium-plastic compound of barriers and closures – this conserves valuable resources and closes the recycling loop.
"Thanks to its high content of renewable raw materials, the beverage carton is among the most climate-friendly packaging on the market. And through our unique Palurec plant concept, we have now succeeded in further improving this recyclability and, therefore, the overall life cycle of the beverage carton."
Andreas Henn, Managing Director Palurec GmbH
"The circular economy is a key lever in preserving biodiversity and protecting our climate. If recycled paper, plastic and aluminum from the beverage carton can be used in new products in the future, this will be an important step in the continued protection of our environment."
Jörg-Andreas Krüger, President of Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU)
Video on the Palurec recycling plant
From groundbreaking to commissioning in 1.5 years
Palurec – Why?
Palurec - Key Facts
|Shareholder||Fachverband Kartonverpackungen für flüssige Nahrungsmittel e.V. (FKN)|
|Location||Knapsack Chemical Park near Cologne|
|Start of construction||July 2018|
|Investment||8 m. €|
|Capacity||18.000 tons (first stage)|
|Project development||KDVW GmbH & Co. KG Bielefeld|
|Implementation||WIPA WERKZEUG- UND MASCHINENBAU GMBH, Stadtlohn MH Immobilien Betriebs GmbH & Co. KG, Herschbach|
Who is the FKN?
The association, founded in 1981 and based in Berlin, represents the common interest of the beverage carton producers: its members are SIG Combibloc, Tetra Pak and Elopak. They constitute about 95% of beverage cartons distributed in Germany and have been heavily involved in the construction and development of the recycling infrastructure of used beverage cartons since the launch of the Dual Systems. For this purpose, ReCarton GmbH was founded as early as 1991. It functions as a service provider for the dual system companies organising the sale and logistics of beverage cartons from household collections.
So what's next?
Currently, both the certification of the Palurec plant and the application procedure at the Central Packaging Register (ZSVR), whose minimum standard sets the benchmark for determining recyclability, are underway.
Whether there will be further Palurec plants depends on numerous factors. For example, lessons learned from the plant, how demand develops in the market for recycled materials, and to what extent companies in the recycling industry become engaged. In any case, inquiries from paper mills throughout Europe are currently revealing a great deal of interest in recycling solutions.
There are three other comparable large-scale plants in Europe. Together with Palurec, this means that an annual capacity of around 50,000 tons is now possible. This equates to around one-third of the volume of beverage cartons currently produced.