New Springs plant able to recycle used juice and milk cartons

4th August 2017 By: Donna Slater - Creamer Media Contributing Editor and Photographer

An investment worth R46-million in a new liquid packaging recycling plant is enabling paper and plastics packaging company Mpact Recycling to recycle used juice and milk cartons at its Springs-based paper mill facility on the East Rand.

The investment forms part of Mpact Group’s various recycling initiatives to increase available materials for all its mills.
Mpact Recycling MD John Hunt says it was previously not possible to recycle juice and milk cartons, poly-coated cups and wet-strength bags, as they are not made of typical paperboard. He explains that, although about 75% of liquid packaging content is paper, the product is lined with low-density polyethylene (plastic), which acts as a watertight barrier. To eliminate light, oxygen and other flavours from entering the product contained inside the packaging, it also contains a lining of aluminium foil, as well as a coating of kaolin clay to enhance printing on the surface of the packaging.

However, this mixture of plastic and metal, or polyalu, means that cartons could not previously be recycled, as the polyalu could not be separated from the paper of the carton.

Hunt says that, for the recycling of such liquid packaging products, the plastic and metal must be removed before the paper can be recycled, which will now be facilitated through two new developments. “Firstly, local liquid carton manufacturers have, over the years, redesigned their processes to significantly reduce the amount of plastic used in the packaging.” Secondly, Mpact’s new liquid packaging recycling plant can recycle 25 000 t/y of used liquid cartons, thereby enabling the company to produce about 18 000 t of recovered fibre, he highlights. This fibre will be fed directly into Mpact’s paper division for use in new paper products.

To complement its initiatives to expand its collection of recyclable materials, Mpact Group acquired Remade Holdings in 2016. In the same year, the group invested R350-million in Mpact Polymers to develop a plant that would process up to 29 000 t/y of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. The company also invested R765-million to upgrade its Felixton mill, near Richards Bay, which will produce an extra 60 000 t/y of paper from recycled fibre.

Mpact Recycling’s role, through its extensive collection network of paper, containerboard, PET and now liquid packaging, is to supply its mills with sufficient volume to match its capacity.

In line with increased supply of material to its mill, Mpact has embarked on a campaign to raise consumer awareness that juice and milk cartons are now recyclable – products which should be separated at source, using recycling project ‘Ronnie’ bags for kerbside collection. To assist with recycling, consumers must ensure the cartons are empty and flattened.

Food processing and packaging solutions company Tetra Pak Greater Middle East and Africa environment cluster leader Rodney Reynders says Mpact’s new carton waste recycling facility is an opportunity for consumers to change their behaviour towards recycling.