Fresh from ACE: New facility for beverage carton recycling in Germany


Recycling technologies are already available to separate the different components of a beverage carton. Further developments are on the way that focus on innovation by improving the extraction of polymers and aluminium in addition to paperboard. In Germany, FKN, through the newly founded subsidiary Palurec GmbH, is investing in a new recycling plant to be built in Cologne-Knapsack. Michael Brandl, Director of Fachverband Kartonverpackungen (FKN), explains:

Beverage cartons are made of paperboard, polymers and aluminium. What is the rationale to build a new recycling facility to treat post-consumer beverage cartons and what will be its focus?

For nearly 25 years, German paper mills have converted the fibre content of used beverage cartons (UBCs) into new paperboard for packaging. In parallel, strong but inefficient efforts by third parties recycled the Poly-Aluminium content. Now the producers of beverage cartons are taking this challenge into their own hands. The new plant is the next step in the recycling chain. It will target the After-Papermill-Rest of UBC. This includes the different polymers but also the small remaining fibre and aluminium content, which will be recovered by mechanical and water treatment only, using no chemicals.

When will the new recycling plant be up and running and what will happen with recovered secondary raw materials?

We have finished planning and are now in the official process to get all legal permissions to start ground preparation, buildings and machine engineering. Now it is up to the authorities. We expect to be ready with installation in about 12 months.

Different purposes are possible for the materials: The polymers shall mainly go for injection moulding, but you can also make thick foils of it or it can be compounded. Fibre is needed at paper mills and aluminium shall go back to the factories.

What will be the capacity of the new plant and will it be able to expand? 

Because we are limited by legal obligations, we will start with roughly 18.000 tons input p.a.. But because of the location and the possibility of cross-border activities, the site will already be prepared to double in size. We will also improve and evolve the process steadily by learning.

How can consumers support such processes?

Of course, first of all to choose beverage cartons! But seriously: Impurities are the most horrible hurdles for recycling in general. To support recycling, the consumer should strictly clean and separate the different materials into their respective containers. For example: no textiles, rubber, biomass or wood into packaging waste!

This article has been published in the ACE Newsletter Autumn 2018.