he local recycling of juice and milk cartons, produced by packaging company Tetra Pak South Africa, has created 18 jobs and removed the need to ship the recovered cartons to India for recycling, says Tetra Pak South Africa environmental manager Rodney Reynders.
The company signed an agreement with Germiston-based Gayatri Paper Mills, which is a part of the packaging and labelling supplier Golden Era Group, to use hydropulping technology to recycle the cartons and use the fibre to produce board for secondary packaging.
“What we have done with the paper mill has created 18 sustainable, local jobs at a single mill. Before the agreement, we were exporting our recovered cartons to India for recycling. We were exporting valuable fibre instead of reusing it locally,” he says.
Tetra Pak South Africa is required to meet yearly recycling targets set by its global parent company Tetra Pak. Last year, it achieved a 6% recycling rate. Reynders has since travelled to Brazil to investigate the recycling success of other Tetra Pak operations, with the operation in Brazil managing a 28% recycling rate.
“Twelve years ago, in Brazil, little recycling was being done. Today, there are 13 paper mills recycling in excess of 50 000 t/y of postconsumer waste. We have learnt from our colleagues in Brazil and adopted their model locally,” he says.
Meanwhile, Gayatri Paper Mills will use hydropulping to separate the multilayer, made up mainly of 75% paperboard, with a 25% component of poly- ethylene (PE) and foil. The most notable feature of the carton packs is that they are mainly made up of paperboard, which is a renewable resource.
During recycling, the PE and foil are separated from the paper pulp. The pulp is then used in the production of secondary packaging, while the PE and foil component is aggromulated – a cold friction process used to separate the materials – and pelletised for use in the manufacturing of injection-moulded plastic products.
“Another option is to supply the separated PE and foil material to the Tetra Pak operation in Brazil, where it is subjected to pyrolysis, which breaks the PE down into paraffin and wax, while the foil is converted into a powder form and used in industry to make, for example, metallic paints. “Further, we will explore the application of this process locally,” notes Reynders.
In an effort to boost recycling and to improve separation of waste at source, Tetra Pak South Africa is a member of recycling body the Recovery Action Group of South Africa which, in conjunction with industry body the Packaging Council of South Africa, the Plastics Federation of South Africa, the Glass Recycling Company, Collect-a-Can and the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa, is collaborating to influence South African legislation to improve recycling.
“We have been working together to create an integrated waste management plan that will be submitted to government. It is only in the draft stage but encourages a twin-bag waste removal system, which will help consumers to separate waste at the source,” he explains.
The twin-bag system proposes that all recyclable waste, such as milk and juice cartons, plastic, glass, paper and metals, is placed into one bag while the organic waste, or wet waste, is placed into a separate bag. This will enable consumers and waste removal services to easily sort recyclables from nonrecyclables, and keep recyclable materials clean and separate from the organic waste.
“We are trying to tap into a greater amount of waste in South Africa at a consumer level – hence, our drive to influence legislation to encourage greater separation of waste at source, which would help to get more recyclables into waste streams from where they can be recycled.”
Pressure from consumers on companies to manufacture environ- ment-friendly and sustainable products is affecting the entire value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials, through to water- and energy-efficient production and manufacturing techniques, as well as the recycling of used products, says Reynders.
“Tetra Pak South Africa has a strong and sustained focus on reducing the impact of our products and manufacturing on the environment.”
He reports that Tetra Pak South Africa grew its market share in 2010 as it explored new opportunities and gained new clients. It foresees continued growth in Southern Africa for the company.
“Our message to consumers is that cartons can be recycled. Place your cartons with your recyclable waste and allow it to be recycled into other products,” he concludes.