Recycling Aseptic Packaging: Milk and Juice Cartons are a Tough Nut to Crack


Aseptic packaging is the packaging that is (generally) used for milk and juices, which after being heated to high sterilization temperatures, are cooled and filled in these aseptic boxes. These cartons sadly, are not recycled as widely as other containers. The reason could be because they are made out of hybrid materials like 20% polyethylene and 80% paper (milk cartons / refrigerated cartons) and juices cartons are made out of 6% aluminum, 24% polyethylene and 70% paper. Most of these cartons end up in landfills as people are not sure whether they can be recycled or not because of their composition. But, though it’s tough nut to crack, you can recycle aseptic cartons.

Why must you recycle cartons?

Aseptic Packaging

Recycling cartons are a very good way of keeping a huge amount of waste out of the landfills and help in conserving raw material by reusing the cartons time and again. Cartons also need fewer resources to be transported due to their product-packaging (94-6) percent, and that means that there is much less greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.

Carton recycling myths

Due to the hybrid packaging, cartons are believed by many to be non-recyclable. This is a myth which needs to be set right. The paper in the cartons is in great demand, as it can be reusedto make into a lot of new products.

Even though many cartons do not feature the recycle symbol, they can still be recycled. Manufacturers are making progress towards placing the recycle symbol on the cartons. 

It’s a myth that cartons are wax coated and cannot be recycled. Gable top cartons i.e. the cartons which can be refrigerated are made out of paper and plastic, both of which can be recycled, and shelf-stable cartons are made out of plastic and aluminum, which can also be recycled. When cartons are recycled, the paper fibers are extracted which can be reused many times, to make paper products. The plastic also can be used to make plastic products.

How do you recycle aseptic packaging

recycle concept

The first step in recycling milk and juice cartons is to check with your local community recycling guidelines. Curbside pickup is more and more popular, but is not available at all places.

You also have to remove any fancy trimmings, straws and lids before you separate your milk and juice cartons for recycling. Only empty cartons are supposed to be recycled and rinsing the cartons also helps, though it’s not a requirement.

Rinsing helps to get rid of odor issues, especially if you have to store the cartons, to be recycled at a later date. Always flatten the cartons as this helps in storage and helps the cartons to be easily handled. Finally, if you are not sure whether the cartons can be recycled, keep them out – this is the thumb rule of recycling. It’s better to be sure that the cartons can be recycled, otherwise your recycling stream may be contaminated. 

Method of recycling cartons

Once you give your milk and juice cartons to be recycled, they are separated by the process of hydropulping at a recycling facility. This process involves the separation of paper fibers from aluminum foil and the outer plastic layer. The separated paper fibers do not require to be de-inked, as the graphics on the cartons are always printed on the outer layer. After the paper is separated, it is used to make tissues and paper and other materials.

The plastic and aluminum mix extracted is used to make plastic lumber. The aluminum and plastic can be used separately to manufacture other products as well. The plastic is often reused to manufacture building materials and shipping crates.


Recycling Aseptic Packaging (1)

Milk and juice cartons are not easily composted due to the mixing of materials. Composting operations remove the plastic and aluminum through mechanical means.

Aseptic packaging needs to be recycled because of their source reduction capacity. It might be difficult to recycle aseptic milk and juice cartons, but doing so is beneficial for the environment.

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