Palurec plant for recycling plastic-aluminium components increases output

The recycling of beverage cartons is on the up. A plant for the recovery of plastic and aluminium fractions in beverage cartons – operated by German company Palurec (Hürth; at the Knapsack chemical park in Cologne – is set to increase its output to 15,000 t this year. This represents an increase of around 100% compared with the previous year, as Palurec managing director Andreas Henn told

Palurec CEO Andreas Henn (Photo: PIE)

The resultant plastic content of polyethylene film, PE, and polypropylene closures is subsequently granulated at Palurec into recyclate, but is not suitable for food-contact applications, which is why it is not returned to the firm’s own production. Instead, it is used to produce, for example, injection moulding materials for packaging-related industrial products such as pallets and reels. 

Since 2021, the plastic-aluminium material mix has been recycled at the plant in Hürth, having in the past been incinerated as an aggregate in the cement industry. Overall, around EUR 8 mn has been invested in the recycling plant. In Germany, beverage cartons are disposed of via the dual systems. The cardboard composite packaging is then sent, on behalf of the dual systems, to paper mills for further recycling, where the fibre content is separated from the plastic-aluminium fraction and then recycled. 

With its nominal capacity of 18,000 t/y, which has not yet been reached, the plant in Cologne can, according to Palurec, recycle around half of all the plastic-aluminium components – also known as “rejects” or “PolyAl” – produced every year in Germany. The other 18,000 t/y is set, from May 2024, to be processed by another recycling plant to be commissioned by Saperatec (Dessau-Roßlau; in Dessau, Germany. This plant is also expected to process plastics and aluminium components from beverage cartons in addition to composite films.

Palurec works with a mechanical-physical process, which dispenses with solvents. Once the plant is up and running, the recyclability of composite cartons should rise to more than 90%, said recycling expert Joachim Christiani from the institute for recyclability and product responsibility, Cyclos-HTP (Aachen, Germany; “Packaging with less than 70% recyclability is likely to be banned from the EU internal market from 2030,” added Stephen Naumann, executive vice president Europe at Elopak (Spikkestad, Norway;, against the background of the not-yet-finally approved EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).

(Left to right) Stephen Naumann (Elopak), Stephan Karl (Tetra Pak), and Volker Bubacz (SIG Combibloc; Photo: Palurec)

The sole shareholder of Palurec is the liquid-food carton association Fachverband Kartonverpackungen für flüssige Nahrungsmittel (FKN, Berlin; The members of this association are the three market leaders, Tetra Pak (Lund, Sweden;, SIG Combibloc (Neuhausen, Switzerland; and Elopak, which together produce around 95% of all the beverage carton packs used in Germany. 

Recycling quota not yet reached 

On the subject of recyclability, Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc, and Elopak are gradually tightening the screw when it comes to the materials being used, above all because of the upcoming PPWR. Depending on the contents, the aim is in the coming years to either reduce the amount of polymer or completely omit aluminium layers. According to the FKN, the plastic content in carton packs for beverages is, depending on the type – whether for fresh or durable products – currently on average still between 20% and 25%. 

The packaging legislation (VerpackG) is calling for a recycling quota of 80% for beverage cartons. The figure in 2022 (more recent data not yet available) was significantly lower at 64.8%. One of the reasons for this was that with the closure of the Delkeskamp paper mill in Nortrup (near Osnabrück, Germany) in 2022, major paper recycling capacities were lost. 

Meanwhile, environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH, Berlin; has repeatedly emphasised that the recycling figure given for composite cartons is higher than it really is. The quotas, it says, relate to the quantities collected by the dual systems, but in fact, say the waste experts, up to a third of the cartons put into circulation in Germany wrongly end up as residual waste that is then incinerated. The actual recycling quota is thus lower. 

16.04.2024 [255049-0]

Published on 16.04.2024

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Date of print: 16.04.2024 06:44:47   (Ref: 786247685)
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