Renewable, Climate Positive and Circular: The Beverage Carton Roadmap to 2030 and Beyond

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Our world is facing major challenges and requires urgent action to ensure the well-being of our and future generations. With growing consumption needs, so are the demands for more sustainable solutions.  Packaging can and should continue to contribute to the EU Green Deal ambitions and in particular to climate neutrality, circularity, biodiversity and resilient food systems objectives, while not compromising on health and safety for consumers.

Our Vision for 2030 and Beyond

To cement its vision for a sustainable future the members of ACE, The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, are proud to present their industry Roadmap to 2030, outlining its continued dedication to sustainable packaging for consumers over the next ten years and beyond. Our vision is to deliver beverage cartons—an essential and intrinsically low carbon and recyclable solution—as the most sustainable packaging solution for resilient food supply systems which is renewable, climate positive and circular. In line with the vision of ACE members, by 2030, beverage cartons will be fully recyclable and recycled, made only from renewable or recycled material as well as entirely from sustainably sourced raw materials and be the packaging solution with the lowest carbon footprint. “Our industry has set ambitious commitments and targets to ensure that beverage cartons are the most sustainable packaging choice, now and in the future. I look forward to continuing our collaboration within ACE to ensure that our vision is realised,” said ACE’s President, Marcelle Peuckert.

Our Commitments

To help drive our journey, the beverage carton industry has adopted a set of ten concrete commitments by 2030.

  • The industry will produce beverage cartons made only from renewable materials and/or from recycled content.
  • All materials used in the production of beverage cartons will meet the highest globally recognised sustainability sourcing standards.
  • The industry will use more fibre and less plastic in its products.
  • Today, beverage cartons are recyclable[1] and are recycled at scale. Achieving a 90% collection rate of beverage cartons for recycling and at least a 70% recycling rate for beverage cartons by 2030 (up 37% from 2019) will support our vision. To reach this commitment, the necessary framework needs to be in place, including the collection infrastructure.
  • To ensure all beverage cartons placed on the EU market are fully recyclable and designed for circularity, ACE will develop stringent Design for Recycling Guidelines that will be issued in Spring 2021. ACE members will implement them as soon as adopted.

Overall, these commitments will allow for a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The meta study carried out by Circular Analytics[2] highlights that, on average, beverage cartons yield significantly better results than PET bottles and single-use glass bottles in terms of global warming potential (in gram CO2 equivalents). Based on this outstanding starting point, the beverage carton industry commits to decarbonize the value chain in line with the 1.5°C science-based target (SBT). The industry will help the EU deliver on its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

  • Finally, the beverage carton supply chain is committed to increasing carbon sequestration, enhancing biodiversity as well as increasing forest growth.

Measuring success

Along the journey, the industry will hold itself accountable by reporting on a set of KPIs which will measure progress towards achieving the commitments. These KPIs include reporting on renewable material and recycled content in beverage cartons, reporting on value chain GHG emissions in line with the SBT, existing globally recognized sustainability sourcing and traceability standards for all materials, and updating the Design for Recycling Guidelines to ensure that these best practices are always up-to-date.

Stay Tuned

The industry is proud of its Roadmap and commitments and the role it will continue to play in helping the EU achieve its goal of a low-carbon climate-resilient future and to offer the ultimate sustainable packaging of tomorrow.  You can visit the visit our website, where you can find out more about our Roadmap, and to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to see the progress we make in hitting our targets.

[1] Eunomia report for the European Commission “Effectiveness of the essential requirements for packaging and packaging waste and proposals for reinforcement” that “beverage cartons are recycled at scale across the EU, however, so based upon this consideration they should be categorised as recyclable packaging”.

[2] “Supporting evidence- environmental performance of beverage cartons” – Circular Analytics, December 2020


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