Beverage cartons are light, made mostly of renewable materials, and easily recyclable if the infrastructure is in place. So, why are they seen as a potential threat in the Indian recycling industry? Continue reading to learn about the beverage carton recycling process and why it’s so vital to maintain recycling them.
Food and beverage cartons have become a familiar appearance on supermarket shelves, and for good reason. From milk and juice to custard, sauces, and soups, food and beverage cartons have become a common sight on supermarket shelves, and for good cause. They’re long-lasting, portable, and good at shielding contents from the elements like moisture and light.
However, it is frequently neglected that beverage cartons provide significant environmental benefits. They’re light (which means they need less energy to transport and store), made mostly of renewable materials, and easily recyclable with the correct infrastructure.
So, why are they seen as a potential threat in the Indian recycling industry? Continue reading to learn about the beverage carton recycling process and why it’s so vital to maintain recycling them.
What are the materials used to make beverage cartons?
Beverage cartons are mostly composed of liquid paperboard (LPB). Which is made up of layers of paperboard with additional protective layers to keep the contents secure. The protective layers for gable-top cartons used for chilled fresh milk and juice are solely made of plastic to keep out outside moisture, however for long-life products, a thin layer of aluminum foil is employed as a light and oxygen barrier. Paperboard is a thick paper-based material that is completely renewable and recyclable.
I’ve heard they’re hard to recycle. Is this true?
The process of recycling cartons is simple, and beverage cartons are being recycled at a growing rate all around the world. The more cartons we recycle appropriately, the more likely they are to be used into new items.
When your commingled recycling is collected, these cartons are transferred to a Materials Recovery Facility. Where it is divided into several streams (paper, metal, glass and plastic). To be recycled, LPB cartons must end up in the paper/cardboard stream. After being sorted into the paper/cardboard stream, the cartons are compacted and baled before being shipped to domestic and international paper mills.
Some paper recyclers argue cartons diminish the value of recycled paper fiber. Hence they don’t want them in their recycling streams. While cartons entering the mixed paper stream is not ideal. It is a far better outcome for the environment than sending such containers to waste.
What is the process for recycling them?
The cartons are shredded and placed in a huge blender that utilizes water to break down the ingredients at paper mills. Before going through a de-inking process to remove the dyes and inks used on the items. It is screened to separate the materials into paper pulp, plastic, and aluminum layers. The pulp that results is ready to be processed into new paper products such as paper towels, tissue, and paper bags.
Containers collected through container deposit schemes come from a cleaner source of waste. They’re baked into their own stream and delivered to paper manufacturers to be recycled into new items. Tetra Pak, for example, sends used beverage cartons to recycling partners in the Asia-Pacific area. Paper is extracted first and then used to make a range of paper products, including paper towels, tissue, and paper bags. The plastic and aluminum are recycled into roofing tiles and/or other construction materials. Find out what your state’s container deposit plan entails.
In India carton recycling relies on citizens properly disposing of their cartons through a container deposit scheme or kerbside recycling for councils that allow them. The more cartons we recycle responsibly, the more we contribute to a circular economy and reduce waste.
Take action now
When possible, use container deposit schemes, and check to see whether your municipality is one of the majority that accepts cartons in kerbside recycling.
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