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Tips for Recycling: Why cartons may be better than plastic

When it comes to container recycling, plastics have experienced way more popularity than paper cartons. This has been due, in large part, to a lack of recycling options for cartons, which in turn has to do with the difficulty in separating the paper fiber from the wax, plastic and aluminum coatings that make them water proof. But as processors have advanced their technologies, more and more options for recycling cartons are popping up across the US. Here are several reasons why the paper carton may be a more environmentally friendly option than plastic when it comes to recycling.

  • Cartons are light-weight and there is very little packaging in comparison to the volume of the product contained within. The carton represents only 6% of the total volume of the product purchased in the store.
  • Products packaged in paper cartons are easier to transport than those in other types of containers.  The same quantity of product packaged in cartons can be shipped in fewer trucks than those products packaged in plastic.  The fewer trucks needed, the less fossil fuel utilized in transporting the product to market, and therefore the lower the carbon footprint.
  • Unlike plastic, the primary component in cartons is paper, which is a renewable resource that is readily recyclable.
  • The paper fibers in cartons are among the highest quality recyclable material available.
  • Due to the quality of this material, recycled cartons are in demand all across the globe. #1 and #2 plastics are in high demand, but other container plastics such as #5, #6 and #7 plastics, those commonly used in food trays and squeezeable bottles, are less sought after.
  • Paper from recycled cartons is used to manufacture such common household items as paper towels, tissue and building products, among many other things.

As you can see, paper cartons have many advantages when it comes to being eco-conscious. Currently, 37% of US households have access to carton recycling, up from only 18% in 2008. If you don’t have access to a carton recycling program in your area, companies like Terracycle may have an option for you.

For more information on why cartons are a sensible choice, visit the Carton Council at We Recycle Cartons, or view this informational video.


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