Used cartons now recyclable in South Africa

Juice and milk cartons have long been one of the contributors to waste in South Africa’s landfill sites. In what is a major development for the South African paper and packaging recycling market, Mpact Recycling is pleased to announce that liquid cartons are now recyclable.


This follows the investment of R46-million in a Liquid Packaging recycling plant at Mpact’s Springs Paper Mill facility. The investment forms part of Mpact Group’s various recycling initiatives to increase available materials for all its mills.

John Hunt, managing director at Mpact Recycling, 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.

Although approximately 75 per cent of liquid packaging content is paper to make it liquid-proof, the product is lined with low density polyethylene (plastic,) which acts as a water-tight barrier; a lining of aluminium foil, which serves as a barrier to light, flavour, and oxygen; enabling the contents to last for months without preservatives or refrigeration; and a coating with kaolin clay to improve the printing surface,’ he says.

The mix of plastic and metal (polyalu) meant cartons could not previously be recycled as the polyalu couldn’t be separated from the paper of the carton.

‘These need to be removed before the paper can be recycled. This was facilitated by two 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 has the capacity to recycle 25,000 tonnes of used liquid cartons per annum and will allow us to produce approximately 18,000 tonnes of recovered fibre, which will be fed directly into our paper division for use in new paper products,’ Hunt explains.

Tetra Pak PacksTo complement its initiatives to expand its own collection of recyclable materials, Mpact acquired Remade Holdings a year ago. In May 2016, the Group invested R350 million into Mpact Polymers to develop a plant that would process up to 29,000 tonnes of PET bottles a year. The company also invested R765 million to upgrade its Felixton mill, which will produce an extra 60,000 tonnes of paper from recycled fibre a year. 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. This is why it has embarked on a campaign to raise consumer awareness that juice and milk cartons are now recyclable, and they should put them in their Ronnie bags for kerbside collection.

Consumers must ensure the cartons are empty and flattened. Where there is no kerbside collection, they can deposit their recyclable items in their nearest Ronnie bank at schools or community centres or, alternatively, cartons can be delivered to any of Mpact’s buy-back centres countrywide or to one of its seven Mpact Recycling operations for payment.

‘Liquid carton packaging provides a category of waste that can be recycled and will add considerably to land preservation in South Africa as consumers can redirect cartons away from limited landfill space.’