Only 40% of American households can recycle food and beverage cartons

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Recycling food and beverage cartons seems to be a simple task, but apparently it’s not simple enough as only 40 percent of American households recycle food and beverage cartons. That said, that value is a significant rise from just three years ago when only 18 percent of the more than 47.9 million American households recycled those goods.

The change took place in 2009 when a group of carton manufactures joined forces to form the Carton Council with one simple goal: To increase carton recycling availability in the U.S. In a mere three years, the number of households that recycled cartons increased by 128 percent.

“In these budget-strapped times, the private sector is increasingly identifying solutions and ways to help the public sector meets its sustainability goals. Our work through the Carton Council is a great example of how business competitors can find common ground and work together to solve big challenges, which in our case is the lack of access to recycle what we know is a very environmentally friendly package—the carton,” said Jason Pelz , vice president, environment, Tetra Pak North America, and vice president of recycling projects for Carton Council of North America, in a press release.

“We know firsthand the economic, social and environmental power in recycling cartons and wholeheartedly support the Carton Council’s efforts to grow carton recycling access across the country,” adds Jeff Fielkow, executive vice president of revenue and growth with ReCommunity, in a statement. “The Carton Council has proven to be a crucial and impactful partner in expanding access to recovering the valuable materials contained in cartons.”

In a press release, the Carton Council writes:

Cartons are a highly recyclable material. In fact, the paper fiber contained in cartons is extremely valuable and useful in making new products when recycled. Depending on what area of the country the cartons are recycled in and which paper mill they are sent to, recycled cartons can be made into office paper and tissues, and can even be used as one of the materials for wallboard manufacturing. The fact is, there is a high demand for recycled cartons, and recycling cartons increases waste diversion from landfills while still offering a potential revenue stream from the sale of cartons.

Cartons offer a sustainable packaging solution. In addition to being made mainly from a renewable resource, cartons are lightweight and have a compact packaging design. They also have a low carbon footprint throughout their life cycle, allowing them to be shipped more efficiently, and in the case of shelf-stable cartons, they can be shipped and stored without requiring refrigeration, further reducing their carbon impact.

“We know from experience that residents respond more favorably to recycling when they are given opportunities to include more materials,” said Dale Gubbels , CEO of Firstar Fiber, in a statement. “With the Carton Council’s assistance, we were able to secure guaranteed market outlets for cartons, which in turn helped us convince the City of Omaha to allow the inclusion of cartons in the recycling program.”

Susmita is a freelance writer and editor in the Greater New York City area with her own blog on natural beauty (Cherry Stained Lips). In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.