On December 16, 2020, the non-profit organization Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) announced in a press statement the release of a report by Eunomia Research & Consulting revealing an incongruence between previously reported recycling rates of beverage cartons in Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

The industry association Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) previously reported higher recycling rates of e.g. 75% for Germany. However, this new analysis reveals for all analyzed countries much lower results for beverage carton recycling than previously reported by ACE, including a value for Germany of just 47.8%.

The authors used the EU’s updated recycling calculation methodology, which not only looks at recycling itself but also takes into account the product’s whole lifecycle, e.g. production (FPF reported). Beverage cartons can constitute complex composite materials whose recycling is quite challenging but can be technically possible where the appropriate infrastructure exists.

Joan Marc Simon, Director at ZWE commented:

“Whilst plastic has been in the spotlight for its low collection and recycling rates, this study shows that other complex materials such as cartons are not doing much better. With new EU-wide mandatory recycling targets and a new associated recycling calculation method, the EU must develop clear guidelines and methodologies to ensure real recyclability.”

To reduce consumer confusion, he suggests that: (1) producers of complex packaging should focus on a circular design process, (2) investments should be mobilized towards reuse and recycling infrastructure, (3) effective collection and sorting systems should be implemented, (4) a single, reliable, widely recognized recyclability label for packaging purposes should be developed. 


 Eunomia (December 2020). “Recycling of multilayer composite packaging: the beverage carton A report on the recycling rates of beverage cartons in Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK” (pdf)

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 ZWE (December 16, 2020). “Press Release: Beverage carton recycling rates substantially lower than reported.”