About Beverage Cartons
Beverage cartons are a low carbon, recyclable packaging solution with an essential role in ensuring access to safe and nutritious food, limiting contamination and preventing food waste.
As a circular and sustainable solution, based on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, beverage cartons typically have a much lower carbon footprint when compared to alternative packaging solutions. In addition, beverage cartons contribute to a low carbon circular economy through the sourcing of renewable materials and recycling at end-of-life. In 2020, Eunomia stated that “beverage cartons are recycled at scale across the EU […] and based upon this consideration they should be categorized as recyclable packaging”. They are a truly circular packaging solution.
Essential and Safe
Each of us use beverage cartons in our daily life: from milk at the breakfast table, to a juice on the commute to work, or a refreshing drink after our evening exercise. A widely used form of sustainable packaging, beverage cartons protect beverages and food, enabling these products to be distributed safely at ambient temperatures or under refrigerated conditions.
Beverage cartons provide a multitude of benefits: from protecting the freshness, flavours, and nutritional qualities of the product during transportation, sale and in the home, to their ease of use and their ability to lengthen the shelf-life of day-to-day products you use.
Beverage cartons are predominantly made from renewable material (75% on average). The fibres used to produce beverage cartons all come from sustainably managed forests, as certified by recognised international certification schemes.
Beverage cartons have a low carbon footprint throughout their lifecycle in core categories of milk and juice. They are also optimally designed, as the product-to-packaging ratio for beverage cartons is as high as 96:4, meaning only four percent is packaging while the remaining weight is the product inside.
What are beverage cartons made of?
On average, beverage cartons are made of:
98% of the paperboard produced in Europe for beverage cartons comes from independently chain-of-custody-certified paper mills, externally verified according to CoC standards, established by internationally recognised sustainability standards.
mostly polyethylene, to prevent leakage.
to protect drinks and food from light and oxygen and to ensure aroma and flavour retention.
A circular approach: Beverage cartons are recyclable and are being widely recycled, with a recycling rate of 51% in 2019 on average in the EU.
Beverage cartons are recyclable and are being widely recycled, with a recycling rate of 51% in 2019 on average in the EU. This rate is set to rise year on year, thanks to regulatory measures and the industry’s ongoing commitment to enhancing recycling efforts across the EU. Today, Member States are required to collect all packaging separately, which is a tangible first step towards boosting the recycling rate of beverage cartons.
Beverage cartons are an important contributor to Europe’s low carbon circular economy and (remove extra space) ACE members are committed to ensuring the responsible use of resources and keeping biodiversity at the heart of their actions, by ensuring sustainable sourcing and stringent supply chain requirements at each step of the process.
All paperboard that goes into ACE members’ products comes from sustainably managed forests, certified by rigorous sustainability standards.
The renewable nature of the raw material used in beverage cartons allows them to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in their core use categories of milk and juice. To complete the circle, through recycling, beverage cartons provide further valuable material with which to produce other paper products.
The amount of polymers and aluminium (PolyAl) used in beverage is limited, but must be added to provide a functional barrier to fibre-based packaging. These barriers help protect and preserve the contents of the beverage carton, contributing to an extended shelf-life and avoiding unnecessary food waste.
Today, the highest share of recovered polymer and aluminium mix (PolyAl) is used for energy recovery. However, there are currently four innovation projects in place to transform the polymers and aluminium into granulates for use in new products – and more projects are in the pipeline which will enable a progressive increase in PolyAl recycling over the coming years. In 2021, an expected one third of the PolyAL recovered from collected beverage cartons will be recycled.