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The Eco Series: Cartons

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Back in May 2018, we launched ‘One Less Bottle’ – a still water in a predominantly paper-based carton. The introduction of One Less Bottle to our range was in response to a growing consumer demand for alternatives to plastic bottles (or PET bottles, as we know them).

Refillable bottles aside, we knew there was no perfect packaging alternative for on-the-go water but we chose to launch in cartons for several reasons. Made mainly with sustainable paperboard from FSC approved forests and using renewable energy, cartons also carry a low carbon footprint. This is because the energy required to produce and recycle them is currently less than any other drinks packaging on the market.

All packaging formats have their pros and cons, and with mixed messages about packaging released in the media and online almost daily we know that it can be really tricky to decipher the facts and work out which packaging format is right for you. For cartons, there are many questions surrounding the manufacturing and recycling processes and we know from feedback that how, where and when to recycle them can be confusing. So we hope that this first instalment of our new blog ‘eco-series’ will help bust some myths on cartons – the pros, cons, facts, figures and everything in between!

‘One Less Bottle’ Cartons

Our cartons are made from 75% sustainable paperboard from FSC-approved forests, 21% plastic and 4% aluminium. Although this may sound complicated, they are actually very easy to recycle, with each of these materials separated during the recycling process. Cartons…

✅are 100% recyclable

✅are a low carbon option

✅are made using renewable energy

✅use paperboard from renewable sources

🔴have limited reusability 

🔴are currently only collected by 67% of local councils in kerbside recycling (an additional 25% of councils collect from local bring banks)

🔴are currently only processed in the UK at 1 dedicated carton recycling plant

Cartons are easy to recycle alongside other household waste, but where they can be recycled (household recycling bin vs. local collection bank) differs between towns and cities:

Step 1: Recycling

Generally speaking, you just need to rinse, squash and put the cap back on your cartons – then place into your recycling box at home or at a local collection bank. You can check here to find out if your local authority accepts kerbside recycling. That’s your part done! 

Step 2: Hydropulping

After used cartons are collected, they are sorted, baled and transported to a dedicated recycling facility where they are hydropulped for 20 mins until the paperboard is separated from the aluminium and plastic lid and lining.

The recycling process of cartons: the paperboard ‘pulp’ and other materials are separated and recycled using a water-based process.

Hydropulping is like a giant washing machine for our recycling – it washes, separates the paper pulp from other elements of the carton, and sends each material off to its onward journey. 

There is currently only 1 dedicated carton facility like this in the UK (based in Halifax). Where around 40% of cartons are recycled here in the UK, the rest are recycled at facilities across Europe.

Step 3: Cleaning and Sorting

The plastic polymer and aluminium materials are then cleaned and baled to be used in new products (like garden furniture or pallets).

Step 4: Paper Thickening

The cleaned paper pulp mix is passed through the drum thickener which reduces water content to optimum level. Once dried, it’s rolled out to be used for creating new products like coffee or hot chocolate containers. 

For more information about the journey of a carton in the recycling system, you can watch this fantastic video from RecycleNow:

There are still improvements to be made…

🚚33% of local authorities in the UK don’t collect at kerbside. If your council is one that doesn’t collect, why not get in touch to see if this will be introduced in the future?

♻️Each council has a different way of recycling, so it can be really confusing. This is currently something that is under consultation with DEFRA – more on that here.

🍃We’re looking into the use of biopolymers (eg. sugar cane) instead of plastic for carton caps.

Additionally, an important consideration to remember is that cartons are still made with a small amount of plastic (in the lid and the lining) and are therefore not a plastic-free option. If plastic-free is something you seek in a product, glass or cans may be your preferred packaging of choice.

Speaking of which, stay tuned for the next instalment in our new eco series where we’ll be filling you in on all things glass!

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