Circular Economy

Contributing to a Circular Economy

Circularity starts with the use of renewable materials, such as forest-based materials made from sustainably sourced biomass that replenishes and regrows over time and ends with recycling at end-of-life. By enabling the substitution of finite and fossil-based resources, renewable materials secure a long-term raw material supply, and support the role of forests as carbon sinks.

Call to action! We call on EU policymakers to further accelerate the transition to a low carbon circular economy by:

  • Fully recognising the contribution of a circular economy to climate neutrality. Sustainably-sourced renewables that store carbon dioxide, while replacing carbon intensive fossil-based resources are an important and effective element to reach climate neutrality. In the words of the EU Commission, “sustainable biomass has an important role to play in a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy” i. A recent report stresses that replacing fossil-based materials with forest-based products from Swedish forests would lead to a savings of around 42MtCO2, which represents more than the total CO2 emissions of a country like Denmark.
  • Increasing recycling through strengthening separate collection.
Recycling building blocks: collection & sorting

An effective collection system is required for a well-functioning recycling system. By collecting all packaging materials separately, the volume of materials available for recycling is significantly increased, providing a more predictable, higher quality waste stream.

In most Member States, citizens either have their beverage cartons collected from their homes – for example, in different colour bags or bins – or they take them to nearby collection points. Setting a national collection or recycling target for beverage cartons will ensure that the collection of all packaging meets legal requirements and help contribute towards ambitious recycling targets. As of 2019, some countries are ahead of the curve, with specific collection targets in place in Austria (50%), Belgium (60%), Germany (75%) and France (59%).

Committing to an EU-wide target

Call to action! We call on EU Member States to introduce a target for separate collection for the recycling of beverage cartons.

As Member States are in the process of developing measures to implement the Waste Framework Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and, in due course, the Single-Use Plastics Directive, now is the time to adopt such a target.

A circular approach: the recycling process

Recycling of beverage cartons in Europe has grown steadily over the last number of years, with around 450,000 tonnes recycled in 2018. This represents a recycling rate of 49%, with some countries, such as Belgium or Germany, recycling over 80%.

The recycling of products made from renewable material ensures that valuable resources contribute to a circular economy.

Although not comprised of one single material, beverage cartons are fully recyclable and recycled in Europe at scale, with the fibre separated from the polymers and aluminium in a pulping process.

Numerous projects will be operational throughout 2020 / 2021 to ensure the continued recycling of aluminium and polymers into new materials. Our industry’s pan-European recycling platform, EXTR:ACT, is currently monitoring and supporting six new projects aimed at increasing recycling of the non-fibre elements of beverage cartons.

For additional information on recycling technology and innovation, we invite you to visit EXTR:ACT’s website.