SIG announces a BRL ten million investment in innovative recycling technology that will enable polymers and aluminum from used aseptic carton packs to be recovered and sold separately for the first time on an industrial scale in Brazil. By expanding the range of applications for recycled materials from used aseptic cartons, SIG expects to increase their value by more than 50%.
“We are excited to bring to Brazil a new technology that will enable the separation of aluminum and polyethylene layers from carton packs, thereby expanding the market for these materials and generating more value from the separated waste,” says Ricardo Rodriguez, president, and general manager, SIG Americas. “This project is the latest in a series of innovative collaborations led by SIG to boost collection and recycling rates for used aseptic cartons and sustainably grow the recycling chain.”
Innovative recycling technology
The renewable paper board that makes up around 75% of aseptic carton packs on average can be separated for recycling in paper mills through Brazil’s existing recycling infrastructure. The polyethylene and aluminum mix (polyaluminium or PolyAl) left over from this process can be recycled into a robust material for purposes such as roofing, pallets, and furniture.
SIG’s recycling plant will use innovative technology that makes it possible to separate the polyethylene from the aluminum in PolyAl to create a wider market and demand for these recycled materials. Developed over five years with project partner ECS Consulting, the new technology has already undergone a pilot project that proved the effectiveness of the chemical recycling process.
The new recycling plant is currently under construction in the state of Paraná. It is expected to begin operating in 2024 with an initial production capacity of 200 tonnes per month. Together with industry partners, SIG has also invested in a plant in Germany to separate polymers and aluminum from PolyAl that went into production in 2021.
Ethical collection programs
Investing in new technology to create a wider market for recycled materials is an important step in increasing recycling rates for used aseptic cartons. SIG has already led the way with innovative programs to support two other important steps: a collection of used packaging from consumers and separation of that packaging to go into the right recycling streams.
SIG’s so+ma vantagens program, run in partnership with NGO so+ma since 2018, enables people in underprivileged communities to collect loyalty points for bringing in waste for recycling. The points can then be exchanged for rewards, such as essential food products and skills training. SIG is now expanding this model to promote recycling and bring additional societal benefits to further municipalities in Brazil and beyond.
SIG also promotes public policies for selective waste collection in Brazil and supports effective infrastructure and decent working conditions for waste collectors’ cooperatives as a seed investor in the Recicleiros Cidades program. Set up with NGO Recicleiros in 2018, the program is now operational in 13 municipalities and aims to reach 60 by 2027.
The focus on recycling in Brazil is part of SIG’s global Way Beyond Good commitment to enhancing the positive environmental and social impact of its packs throughout their lifecycle.
“At SIG, we are committed to sourcing the materials that go into our packs sustainably. We are already the first aseptic carton producer to source 100% FSC-certified board and use ASI-certified aluminum,” says Isabela De Marchi, sustainability manager, SIG South America. “We are also determined to foster an ethical recycling chain that promotes collection and recycling of our packs after use in a way that supports communities, workers, and the environment. The new recycling plant in Paraná takes us a step further on this journey by maximizing the retained economic and environmental value of the materials recovered from aseptic cartons.”