Re: Cost to recycle aseptic packaging

Hop (
Thu, 11 Mar 1999 11:58:54 +0900

>From: "John Reindl" <>
>Does anyone know of some good data on the cost to collect, process
>at a MRF and then market aseptic packaging? A collector/MRF operator
>here in Wisconsin is looking into this at the request of some
>I went to the Web pages of the Aseptic Packaging Council, but the
>site had no information on the costs.
>Thanks much,
>John Reindl, Recycling Manager
>Dane County, WI

Hi John & others,

The following article(s) written in Australia a few years ago may be
helpful, or at least of interest. If anyone wants the 17k (ie. small) Excel
Spreadsheet containing the supporting figures I'd be glad to provide it -
just send me <> a direct e-mail and I'll reply with
it as an attachment.


Waste Crisis Network, Do the Right Thing - Jan/Mar 1996

Milk & Juice Carton Recycling - Who Pays!!?

Peter Hopper, Waste Resource Officer
Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW

In February 1996 I had the opportunity to examine the Tetra Pak
manufacturing and Australian Paper recycling operations for milk and juice
cartons. The information the tour provided allows me to conclude who pays
for recycling - and who doesn't!
The tour, organised by the Association of Liquidpaperboard Carton
Manufacturers (ALC), visited Tetra Pak's factory at Fairfield in Sydney and
Australian Paper's mill on the Shoalhaven River near Nowra. Although
primarily a public relations exercise, it also provided an ideal
opportunity to network with the few other "waste educators" invited to
attend, and to determine who bears the bulk of the costs and
responsibilities for recycling at present - and who should in the future.
Following are a few key observations made from a local government
point of view. Relevant facts and figures, gleaned from our hosts during
the tour, are given in the accompanying article, "Tetra Pak & Southcorp -
Production, Recycling & Waste - Facts & Figures".
Who Should Pay?
Local Government has historically had responsibility for
garbage/waste collection. This remains the case today. However, the costs
and difficulties associated with the collection of 'recyclables' begs the
question - should the collection cost for recyclables continue to be met by
local councils - or should industry start paying the full cost? After all,
these are commodities now, not garbage.
Industry shares this view, often being the first to say
'recyclables aren't waste'. For example, in the words of the LRRA's Tanya
Boody: "It is high time we realised it is not waste we are recycling, but
valuable resources recovered for reprocessing and re-use. Kerbside
collection of this recyclable material provides a convenient and efficient
mechanism for the recovery of these resources." (Waste Management and
Environment, October 1995).
"Convenient and efficient" for the packaging industry perhaps, but
why should Local Government bear a cost for the collection of commodities
for industry. Shouldn't it instead earn a profit from the collection
service it provides?
Collection Costs
The Plastics Industry Association reported in its July 1993
newsletter "Looking Ahead" that liquidpaperboard collection, sorting, and
transport costs were $692 per tonne. Information provided by a number of
Sydney councils and the Local Government Recycling Co-operative suggests
this to be a reasonable estimate.
Recycling Returns
But the price paid by Australian Paper for a tonne of milk and
juice cartons - squashed, bailed, and delivered to its depot at Enfield in
Sydney (or similar depot in the other capital cities) - is only $250 per
Net Cost to Councils
The difference, around $450 per tonne, is paid for by councils and
ultimately by their ratepayers.
This is obviously not an attractive proposition for councils and
does nothing to support the expansion of recycling collection services. It
does, however, indicate why industry is so reluctant to undertake such
collections themselves.
How Much is the Packaging Industry Currently Paying?
When asked how much Tetra Pak contribute to the buy-back price my
ALC hosts' replied that Tetra Pak fund ALC who provide an "educational
Perhaps I've learned to read between the lines but the education I
was receiving told me that Tetra Pak pays very little toward the actual
cost of councils collecting cartons - and that ALC, the milk and juice
carton manufacturers' lobby organisation, was doing a pretty good job of
helping to disguise that fact.

Tetra Pak & Southcorp Production, Recycling & Waste - Facts & Figures

Peter Hopper, Waste Resource Officer
Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW

The recently passed NSW Waste Minimisation and Management Act requires an
Industry Waste Reduction Plan (IWRP) for the dairy industry, and later for
the packaging industry. Paperboard carton manufacturers have an obvious
role to play in both these plans. For that reason, the following profile of
Tetra Pak's and Southcorp's combined production, recycling, and related
waste activities should be of interest to many readers.
Tetra Pak and Southcorp are the two main producers of paperboard
cartons in Australia. Foreign owned Tetra Pak's sole Australian
manufacturing operation is at Fairfield in Sydney's south-west. Australian
owned Southcorp is based at Dallas in Melbourne. Annually they import
around 40,000 tonnes of paperboard - Tetra Pak mainly from Sweden and
Southcorp mainly from the US. None of the imported paperboard has a
recycled content.
"Gable-top" cartons used for milk are a laminate of paperboard
coated with polyethylene plastic (not wax as many people think). "Aseptic"
cartons used for juice have the addition of an aluminium foil layer
sandwiched between plastic - six layers in all! Alcohol based inks are used
for printing. Total material input for both types of cartons is around
44,000 tonnes per annum - consisting of approximately 88 percent
paperboard, 10 percent polyethylene, one percent aluminium, and one percent
Total saleable product after production losses to waste and
recycling amounts to around 40,650 tonnes per year - all but 1500 tonnes of
which is for the Australian market.
Both Tetra Pak and Southcorp cartons are distributed to fillers
throughout Australia. A small percentage of all cartons produced are
collected after use and returned to NSW for reprocessing at the Australian
Paper mill on the Shoalhaven River near Nowra. On average paperboard
cartons weigh around 31.5 grams. Which equates to nearly 32,000 cartons per
Of the 1.25 billion or so cartons produced each year, only around
eight percent are recycled.
Carton recycling is limited to the partial recovery and
reprocessing of the paperboard component. The polyethylene and
polyethylene-coated aluminium goes to waste.
As a proportion of saleable product around 92 percent of carton
material - all the polyethylene, aluminium, and ink, and most of the fibre
- ends up as waste. Most goes to landfill.
Cutting Carton Waste
Rather than seeking to recover as many used cartons as possible
from the waste stream and using recycled material for new carton
production, Tetra Pak prefers to promote incineration as a desirable waste
management option ("The Environment - A Common Sense Approach" - Tetra Pak,
date unspecified).
This is unfortunate since, from an environmental viewpoint it would
be far more desirable to combine recycled paperboard with Australian grown
fibre to produce new paperboard - an option which is technically possible
but would result in a thicker board according to the Association of
Liquidpaperboard Carton Manufacturers (ALC).
If paperboard carton manufacturers are serious about waste
minimisation and if carton collection rates are to increase to the level
required to meet the NSW target of a 60 percent reduction in waste by the
year 2000, these companies need to pursue such options. And councils, who
can ill afford to subsidise the packaging or any other industry, must be
paid at least the true cost of collecting cartons for recycling (see
accompanying article, "Milk & Juice Carton Recycling - Who Pays!!?").
The Local Government and Shires Associations' policy is to seek the
introduction, at a State and Commonwealth level, of Container Deposit
Legislation (CDL).