Tetra Pak and Palurec develop carton package recycling in Germany

Tetra Pak joined forces with Palurec, a prominent recycling company in Germany, to drive advancements in polymer recycling technologies and extrusion pelletising. This innovative technology aims to set new standards in the recycling of carton packages while contributing to the vision of a circular economy1.

Founded in December 2017, Palurec GmbH operates under the ownership of Germany’s Association of Cardboard Packaging for Liquid Foods (FKN), with industry members as key stakeholders. Their collective efforts have been instrumental in establishing and developing the recycling infrastructure for carton packages through mechanical separation and extrusion methods.

Background and initiative – a milestone for carton recycling

The opening of Palurec, the state-of-the-art polyAl recycling plant located in Hürth near Cologne, signifies a milestone in Tetra Pak's recycling journey. The joint investment of €8 million by Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc, and Elopak has resulted in establishing an 18,000-tonne facility. Palurec focuses on recovering plastic and aluminium components from carton packaging, making it the first of its kind in Germany.

Recycling facility

Image: Palurec state-of-the-art polyAl recycling plant (source: palurec.com)

Results – producing a range of materials from recycled cartons

These collaborative efforts have allowed an open loop system for recycling carton packaging after the first recycling step in a paper mill. The recycling process achieves an impressive recyclability rate of over 90%. The raw material for the Palurec plant comes from German paper mills that process carton packages from yellow recycling bags and bins into new paper products. The innovative plant concept utilises advanced separation units to effectively handle non-homogeneous material mixtures, including polyethylene (PE) and aluminium film, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic closures, and other impurities.

Looking ahead – the road to full recyclability

The shared vision is to achieve nearly 100% recyclability for carton packages through Palurec and other polyAl recyclers. Since the recycling rate for carton packages in Germany has increased to 80% by law as of 2022, Palurec plays a pivotal role in enhancing the recyclability of packaging and countering criticism surrounding carton recyclability.

Tetra Pak's investment in Palurec and the foundation of the new plant represents a meaningful stride towards creating a circular economy in Germany. With the establishment of the Palurec recycling plant, the recycling of carton packages is setting new industry standards and reaffirming Tetra Pak's commitment towards sustainability.

Closeup of extrusion pelletizing

Image: Pellets made from recycled cartons (source: palurec.com)

1The circular economy refers to a system in which materials never become waste and are kept in circulation through processes including recycling, reuse and composting. It tackles environmental challenges by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. Source: Ellenmacarthurfoundation.org, What is a circular economy?

2The non-fibre component of carton packages is known as polyAl, which designates the layers of polyolefins and aluminium being used as barrier against oxygen and humidity to protect the food content in aseptic carton packages.


Companies involved

Tetra Pak contacts
Babendererde Caroline