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Tetra Pak offers to fund robotic sorters to aid carton collections

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Carton manufacturer Tetra Pak has offered to pay for and install robotic sorting arms at some material recycling facilities (MRFs) to support the collection and sorting of food and drink cartons.

The funding will be available to groups of local authorities and their waste management providers which do not currently accept food and drink cartons at the kerbside and can commit by “early next year” to making the switch.

Once applications are received, there will be “a process of evaluation and due diligence, after which funding will be delivered to selected councils,” Tetra Pak said.

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Dragan Rajkovic, sustainability director for Northern and Eastern Europe at Tetra Pak, said: “With the number of UK households growing by almost 6% in a decade and local authorities expected to do more in terms of service provision, often with less resources, Tetra Pak wants to help contribute to supporting local recycling, from how the packaging is designed through to direct financial support for collection services.”

Consistency
Tetra Pak explained that, while Defra’s consistent collections legislation has not been finalised yet, the “direction of travel” is clear that councils will have to collect cartons soon.

Tetra Pak says the funding will allow the collection and sorting of cartons from the kerbside
Cartons were included in Defra’s consistent collections consultation but this has not been formalised yet.

The global carton manufacturer said its funding will provide an opportunity for “forward-thinking and innovative groups” of local authorities to be financially supported to make changes now that “will be required in the next two years regardless”.

Tetra Pak added that the funding opportunity sits “alongside other support and expertise available from the Alliance of Beverage Cartons and the Environment UK (ACE), including generous subsidies for collected material sent to the carton mill in Yorkshire”.

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The robotic sorting arm that will be installed for successful applicants is fully moveable and offers flexibility and added infrastructure to support a new kerbside collection regime, according to Tetra Pak.

Recycling
Tetra Pak supported the creation of the carton mill at Halifax, West Yorkshire, which processes cartons for recycling and is operated by ACE UK.

Cartons are pulped to separate the fibres from the polyethylene and the aluminium
The mill has the capacity to process 25,000 tonnes of cartons a year but is currently operating below capacity.

“Collecting cartons at kerbside gives the scale and volume that can be sent to this carton mill for processing and turning back into new products, such as cardboard tubes and floor matting. And now our offer of direct funding interventions for sorting infrastructure is aiming to tackle a barrier to greater kerbside collections,” Tetra Pak said.

The company added: “The opportunity is collaboration. The chance to implement this at the local level is now.”

It is estimated by Tetra Pak that around 2.3 billion food and drink cartons are put on the market in the UK each year, roughly six million per UK local authority.

Around 70% of cartons are made from paperboard, which is separated from the polymers and aluminium which make up the rest. All can be recycled at the ACE UK facility in Halifax.

Applicants wishing to participate in the scheme have been encouraged to contact tetrapak@brands2life.com by 6 January 2023 for further details.

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