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Zero Waste: Are Cartons Recyclable?

Posted: February 1, 2018 at 4:04 pm by , in Featured, Zero Waste

Are Cartons Recyclable?

The answer is a resounding YES! Cartons CAN go in your single-stream recycling cart.

 

 

Of all the items that are recyclable, cartons are the #1 item people ask Eco-Cycle about, unsure if cartons qualify for the recycling bin. Yet, we use millions of them every year, so it’s important to recycle them instead of sending them to the landfill.

Recyclable cartons include:
● Non-dairy milk and soup broth cartons (including non-refrigerated, shelf-stable cartons with aluminum lining)
● Single-serving juice boxes (NO straws!)
● Milk, orange juice, and other beverage cartons

Please DO NOT FLATTEN your cartons and be sure they’ve been rinsed and emptied before putting them in your recycling cart with the caps on. Please do NOT put the individual small caps in your recycling bin loose.

Sadly, ice cream containers are NOT included as a carton and are not yet recyclable because there isn’t a market for them. Cartons are recyclable because the carton industry created a recycling process and market specific to their own products, and it does not include other product packaging.

Why is it important to keep containers 3-dimensional?
At the Boulder County Recycling Center (BCRC), which is owned by the county and operated by Eco-Cycle, the automatic sorting equipment does initial sorting to separate containers (3-D items) from paper (2-D) items like office paper and newspaper). If the cartons, which are considered a container, have been flattened, the machines will mistake them for paper, and they will be prepared for and sent to the wrong market. Please keep your cartons 3-D so they will be identified as containers.

What happens to the cartons after they’re collected for recycling?
After workers at the BCRC have completely process the cartons, they are sold and shipped to North American factories to become new products, including paper towels, plastic plant pots, tissues, office paper, and building products, such as ceiling and roofing tiles.

Cartons can be a good packaging choice because they use less energy to produce and transport than other options, such as glass. Cartons weigh less than glass and aseptic cartons don’t require refrigeration, which means less energy is used (and less of an impact is made on our climate) in transport.

In addition, recycling the paper fiber in cartons instead of using virgin materials results in 74 percent less air pollution and 35 percent less water pollution.

Got recycling questions? Contact recycle@ecocycle.org or call Eco-Cycle’s recycling hotline at 303.444.6634, Mon-Fri, 9 am – 5 pm.

KGNU will bring you recycling tips and covering zero waste issues throughout the year in partnership with Eco-Cycle, thanks to a grant from Boulder County.