There are challenges to surmount when it comes to achieving circularity for cartons, but a trade group for the sector, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) UK, has launched a campaign – Carton Ready – to support the implementation of the UK Government’s Simpler Recycling reforms.
The reforms will ensure that from 31 March 2026, all English households will be able to recycle food, drink and other liquid cartons with confidence, mandating their collection alongside plastic and other dry-recyclable materials and bringing an end to the current fragmented system. This is welcome news, says ACE UK, not just for the group and its members, but for the 60% of respondents that supported the inclusion of cartons in the 2021 Consistency in Household and Business Recycling Collections in England consultation.
However, with ACE UK’s analysis of recycling infrastructure indicating that only two-thirds of English local authorities currently collect liquid cartons, the challenge remains to successfully implement these reforms before March 2026.
With the launch of its Carton Ready campaign, ACE UK is offering resources and advice to help English local authorities successfully implement the mandatory collection of liquid cartons. This includes a Carton Ready Implementation toolkit, providing step-by-step guidance for local authorities to set up and maintain effective kerbside collection services from different starting points – whether they are in the process of reviewing their waste management contracts, extending or renegotiating contracts. The toolkit also contains information on best practice from local authorities that have set up successful kerbside collection for liquid cartons.
ACE UK is currently collaborating with a number of local councils to improve liquid carton collection and recycling rates. The Carton Ready Implementation Toolkit is based upon decades of experience supporting councils successfully establish kerbside collections for cartons.
Discussing the launch of Carton Ready, Mandy Kelly, Senior Recycling Manager at ACE UK said;
“We want the Government’s Simpler Recycling reforms to be a success, and we know that some local authorities will need help to update their existing processes to comply with the new requirements. The ACE UK team is ready to support local authorities to adapt to these changes, working with their local waste management contractors to rapidly develop their carton collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure.
“That’s why we’ve launched our new Carton Ready campaign to help local authorities and waste managers successfully implement the reforms ahead of the implementation date.”
ACE UK has a dedicated recycling team which offers advice and support to local authorities and community recycling networks wishing to collect cartons. An interactive map on the ACE UK website also helps residents find out where and how they can recycle cartons in their area (http://www.ace-uk.co.uk/recycling/).
To find out more about liquid carton recycling, visit: www.ace-uk.co.uk
While two-thirds of English local authorities currently provide kerbside collection for liquid cartons, a third do not. This means that local authorities which have not already set up kerbside liquid carton collections will need to update and align their processes with the waste and recycling reforms.
The group said: “ACE UK is launching the Carton Ready Campaign to assist those local authorities that do not currently offer kerbside liquid carton collection. Our team will provide advice to local authorities on successfully establishing kerbside collection for liquid cartons.”
ACE UK is also publishing case studies, showcasing some of the success it has had working with local authorities, some of which are detailed below.
Chelmsford Borough Council
ACE UK worked with Chelmsford Borough Council when it updated its kerbside collection service to include plastics and cartons, investing in upgrades to its local material handling infrastructure. We initially aided the council in directing the cartons, once sorted, to a wastepaper recycling specialist company, and then collaborated with them again to send these cartons to our recycling facility. Within a few years, the council doubled the volume of plastic and cartons collected and cut residual waste levels by 20%.
Somerset County Council
ACE UK collaborated with Somerset County Council as it implemented its “Recycle More” programme for its 260,000 residents. As part of this programme, Somerset invested in a new fleet of upgraded collection vehicles and enhancements to material sorting lines at area recycling depots. We worked with Somerset to ensure that these cartons were subsequently sent to ACE UK’s Halifax recycling facility for processing. Alongside these changes, Somerset delivered an extensive communications program that helped all participating households understand the changes to kerbside collection services, ultimately resulting in residual waste reduction of 20% and a 50% increase in plastic materials collected.
East Cambridgeshire District Council
ACE UK assisted East Cambridgeshire District Council as it introduced cartons into its kerbside collection alongside plastics, covering more than 36,400 households. To facilitate this transition, the council invested in new collection vehicles and ran an informational campaign for residents which spanned newspapers, radio adverts, and flyers. The cartons collected were then sent to our recycling facility, as part of a wider agreement where we received cartons across all of Cambridgeshire. After only two years, the Council’s recycling rates more than doubled from 23% to 56%.