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The journey of a used beverage carton

Published on: 08.05.2018

Seen from a recycler’s point of view, the beverage carton is the ultimate packaging. It combines excellent protective properties for the product it contains and is strong enough to withstand the rigors of the recycling process.

A beverage carton is made of the strongest, high quality fibers available: cellulose fibers. Nothing else would be able to withstand the arduous process of converting and filling the packaging, maintaining shelf life, transport, consumer consumption and finally, the recycling process. Still, even when processed and distributed by a material recycling company, every single cellulose string remains fully protected. Sturdy plastic barriers, which safeguard the product from contamination, also provide structural reinforcement and protect the packaging content from its surroundings.

Fiskeby Board paper mill includes recycled beverage carton material as a raw material in the production of new packaging board. 

With a recycling utilization rate often exceeding 93% of the carton’s cellulose part, the process is tailored to release the delicate fibers from their plastic shield. Each year Fiskeby buys 180 000 metric tonnes of post-consumer packaging material, of which beverage cartons are a substantial amount.

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The process begins with the choice of material to recycle. To control this, Fiskeby works with reliable and competent suppliers who can meet the company’s demands. Products are purchased and consumed at a fast pace and the recycling turnover rate is high. Thus, within days or at maximum a few weeks after collection, the packaging is already recycled. 

Once at Fiskeby, the packaging is first roughly disintegrated into “hand-size” parts that are then fed into the continuously running mechanical process. This results in the raw fiber pulp being separated from the plastic and other barriers, and takes place in a giant drum washer. The washer’s
rotation, together with recycled hot water, brings energy into the mixing process, and helps loosen the fibers from the plastic barriers. There are several subsequent steps that help refine and prepare the complex fibers, in turn increasing the quality of the pulp.

The properties brought to Fiskeby’s four-layer packaging board, known as Multiboard®, made from recycled beverage cartons, make it the world’s strongest board of its kind. 

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The overall efficiency of the process is boosted by the supporting systems. Any combustible reject material (also known as PolyAl) is internally transferred to the mill’s energy plant.  Here, steam is produced along with some electricity, which fully covers the thermal needs of this recycling process.

The mill operates 350 days per year, and maintains a constant focus on energy efficiency. To cope with any remnants in the outgoing water phase, Fiskeby applies Best Available Technology (BAT) and turns a portion into biogas.

This article is from our Environmental Report 2017. Click to read our full report.