Recycling TetraPak

A CambridgeUniversitystart-up has developed a unique recycling technology for the millions of TetraPak’s that are thrown away each year.

Using a technique called microwave-induced pyrolysis- a unique form of heating to release compounds – EnvAl will extract usable aluminium and plastic from the packaging which can then be recycled.

Current techniques extract the 75% paper content from the TetraPak, which is re-used as fibre in cardboard before the remaining plastic and aluminium (25 per cent and 5 per cent respectively) are sent to a landfill site.

Dr. Carlos Ludlow-Palafox, co-founder of EnvAl said that the technique is unique, and no one else has attempted it.

‘Chemically it is advantageous as it has a reducing environment, so harmful compounds are reduced, is more efficient and is scaleable so can be adapted to different sized plants,’ he said.

EnvAl has received £150,000 from CambridgeUniversity’s Entrepreneurs business creation competition to commercialise its technology. In the immediate future, Ludlow-Parafox said EnvAl is putting the grant towards constructing a small-scale pilot plant to test the technology.

However, he added that commercially it will not break even, as the production is on a small scale. The business model, which secured the funding specifies the development of a mobile recycling plant which can be transported from plant to plant, thereby saving on the substantial transportation costs incurred with a low-density waste product. This varying scale of plant is an advantage not found in alternative forms of recycling and is the key to its commercial potential said Ludlow-Parafox.

‘Unlike plasma heating, (a technology that has also been used to recycle TetraPak cartons by Alcoa), we think applying a microwave frequency is more efficient and cheaper. And systems based on the technique can be scaled depending on the need of the application,’ concluded Ludlow-Parafox.