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Recycling: Focus on food and beverage cartons

Teach your children well

An awareness campaign is being launched to drive the recycling of food and beverage cartons.

South Africa is ahead of the curve for paper recycling – 68.4% of paper we use is recovered for recycling, against a global average of 59.3%, according to data from the sector. However, only a small percentage of that includes food and beverage cartons – which, if included, could increase the country’s paper recovery and recycling rate significantly.

Cartons are used to package liquids such as milk, mahewu/mageu, juice, wine and custard, and in some cases, dry foods such as cereals, sugar, rice, bird seed and pet food. Pictures: Supplied

Francois Marais, manager of Fibre Circle, says many South Africans are unaware that these cartons can be recycled. Fibre Circle is the producer responsibility organisation (PRO) for the South African paper and paper packaging sector, and has partnered with Nampak Liquid Cartons, SIG Combibloc and Tetra Pak South Africa for the Super Cartons campaign.

The campaign isn’t just for adult consumers – children will also learn the benefits of recycling these containers through three Super Carton superheroes: Captain Infinity, Dr Renewable and Super Transformer. Details will be shared on Facebook and Fibre Circle’s website, consumers can enter a competition and win one of 10 cash prizes of R1 000, plus there will be an in-store roll-out of displays at participating Checkers, Checkers Hyper, Pick n Pay and Spar stores in Gauteng.

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The thrust of the campaign is to raise awareness among South African consumers that when they recycle cartons locally, they unlock their true value. The superhero theme personifies this value as a superpower.

Long shelf life

“Cartons are made primarily from paperboard, and lined with thin layers of plastic, or plastic and foil called polyalu,” says Marais. “These are important for ensuring the liquid or dry food is sealed in and has a long shelf life. In addition, some of these cartons have caps or straws made of plastic.

“But those layers can be separated and recycled. The cartons go through a special pulping process, where the paperboard reduces into a pulp and separates from the polyalu layers. The pulp is then used to make new paper-based products, and the polyalu components go towards making products such as crates, roof tiles and other moulded plastic items.”

Carton materials to be recycled

Marais says South Africans recycle about 1.2 million tons of paper each year (Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa, 2020), which equates to about 219 soccer pitches’ worth of paper that doesn’t end up in landfills.

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“Imagine if we could add food and beverage cartons to that number,” says Marais. “And it’s really easy to do – once empty, flatten the carton, replace the cap or push the straw in, and put it with your other paper recycling.”

To enter the competition, visit or follow @paperrocksza on Facebook for more details.

Information about the recycling of cartons:


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