A beverage carton – whether it be a milk carton, juice carton or another type of carton – can always be recycled. But Stora Enso’s Barcelona Mill has come up with a one-of-a-kind innovation that does much more than simply recycling. Using specialised technology, all parts of the carton can be reused at the mill. In a process that generates zero waste, the cartons are given a new life as a source of energy and raw materials.
Beverage cartons are usually made of 75 per cent fibre, 20 per cent plastic and 5 per cent aluminium. The plastic and aluminium are used in the inside layers of the carton. Special measures must be taken to enable all of these components to be recycled.
At the Barcelona Mill, the fibres are washed away from the plastic and aluminium. They are then cleaned and used for the production of new board. This board can subsequently be used, for example, in food packaging, such as cereal boxes.
The truly innovative part of the process is what happens to the aluminium and plastic once the fibres have been removed. The mill uses a special technology called pyrolysis to separate the plastic from the aluminium so that the quality of the aluminium remains high, thereby enabling it to be fully recovered. Essentially, the mill uses plastic to create energy. The aluminium is recovered as bricks and sold to aluminium companies. This process enables all components of a beverage carton to be reused, resulting in zero waste.