Are Milk Cartons Recyclable?

Many questions about recycling depend less on the product you want to recycle and more on the place that you live.

This is true of milk cartons.

They are fairly easy to recycle but it may be hard to get them recycled where you live.

Only 62% of the USA currently has access to local milk carton recycling.


The Different Types Of Milk Cartons

Are milk cartons recyclable?

Yes. There are two main types of milk carton and they are both capable of undergoing a recycling process.

  1. Gable Top Cartons
    These food and beverage cartons are the kinds of storage containers that you find in refrigerated sections of the store. Refrigerated cartons tend to have a fairly limited use-by date for the contents. These tend to be made mainly of paper but also contain a bit of plastic (on the inside and outside) to prevent the fluid from soaking through the paper.
  2. Aseptic Cartons
    These are the sort of shelf-stable cartons that you find on the supermarket shelf with, usually, a longer shelf life. They can take many forms such as glass containers, ice cream containers, etc. as well as standard milk packaging. However, mainly they are a paper, plastic, and aluminum mix.

It doesn’t matter if you drink dairy milk, oat milk, potato milk, cashew milk, almond milk, soy milk, or some other kind of milk, they all come in similar cartons.


The Pros And Cons Of Milk Cartons For The Environment

Because they are mainly paper products with just a little extra material – milk packaging tends to be very lightweight.

This keeps transport costs down and as we all know, that also reduces the amount of carbon emissions produced when transporting the products.

Aseptic containers also cut down on the need for a refrigerated section in the transport vehicle and thus they conserve more energy.

However, on the downside of things recycling cartons isn’t always possible and if there’s no curbside recycling, in particular, that takes the cartons to a materials recovery facility? Then just like plastic bags and other environmentally damaging materials – they can end up in landfills rather than recycling centers and that’s definitely not good for our environment.


How Do We Recycle Milk Cartons?

There is a Carton Council which is a carton industry body and the Carton Council says that there are two main methods of recycling:

  1. The first method, according to the Carton Council, has all the cartons packed up together and transported to a paper mill. They use something called a Hydrapulper to separate the paper from the other materials. The paper pulp can be made into other paper products and the other materials (plastic and aluminum) are put to use in other industrial processes too.
  2. The second method is to shred the cartons at a recycling facility that specializes in building materials. They then press this shredded material into sheets of construction board. They say it takes about 400 cartons in a thin layer to make a 4′ x 8′ board!

How To Make Sure My Milk Cartons Are Recycled? What If There’s No Recycling Bin?

The best way to ensure your cartons are sent to be recycled in paper mills or building materials manufacturing facilities is to use your accepted curbside collection.

Curbside programs may have specific rules for how you put the cartons in the bins but most curbside programs can easily handle these cartons.

If you don’t have such a facility? You can dry out the cartons, crush them and mail them to a facility (listed below), you will need to pay the postage though.

  • GFL, 645 West 53rd Place, Denver, Colorado 80216
  • Firstar Fiber, 10330 “I” Street, Suite 100, Omaha, Nebraska 68127
  • Tidewater Fiber, 1958 Diamond Hill Road, Chesapeake, Virginia 23324

How To Reuse Milk Cartons?

We also have some more ideas that can help you reuse your cartons rather than posting them off.

They’re great as plant feeders due to their water resistance (and they can be wax coated if you want to give them a little extra resistance), they are fine as storage containers too and they can be cut up and used in craft projects.

That saves on postage and is even kinder to the environment as reusing is almost always better for the planet than recycling is.


Final Thoughts On Recycling Milk Cartons

Are milk cartons recyclable?

Yes, yes they are.

However, if you want to recycle cartons, you need carton recycling facilities nearby. You can mail paper cartons to other parts of the country where they have such recycling technology but it might be best to learn to reuse them rather than go through that process.

However, for two-thirds of the country, you can get a carton to a recycling facility by simply using the local curbside program and dropping it in the curbside bin. It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

If you think recycling is important you should find out how to recycle a car, how to sustainably recycle books, and take a look at 52 ways to protect Mother Earth (Gaia) too.

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