Friday, February 15, 2013

Tetra Pak... amended

So, upon a little more research prompted by the side of two almond milk cartons that specifically stated they are recyclable in certain areas.  I decided to look into recycling cartons again. I apologize that I have given information that was only partially true.  Tetra Paks are actually recyclable in part.

Here are the facts:
Tetra Pak makes their cartons on average from 70%-80% of paper.  Metals and plastics are combined with the paper to make the cartons aseptic.  You can see a diagram here. The recycling of these cartons removes the non-paper products then recycles the paper into tissue products.

While these packages are still recyclable it does seem that there is some waste.  It is seen in the two ways.  First, the Tetra Paks themselves do not use recycled paper, so any paper going into the production of these cartons does come from freshly processed trees in order to make a clean food-safe product.   Second, the non-paper products (that is 20%-30% of the packaging) get siphoned off, and don't seem to get recycled from what I can tell from the carton recycling process.

In fairness, while the production of these cartons is not completely waste free, Tetra Pak does work to reduce waste as much as possible, through forestry guidelines, reduction of carbon footprint at the factories, and recycling programs that turn their product into new paper products that don't need to be food ready.

There are other rumors about tetra paks that I feel need to be addressed.  I have heard and read that these cartons are neglected by most city/county recycling programs.  This could not be further from the truth.  As I looked into it more, I found that not only are these packages recyclable, but recycling programs that include them are more readily available than one would think.  In fact, there is even more information out there for recycling cartons and/or making cartons recyclable in your community than most people even have time to read.

So, in conclusion I would like to apologize for my lack of investigative journalism on this matter and provide you with some resources.

First, I would encourage you to check out these three websites for general information about recycling:

All these websites above provide some helpful information so you can make informed choices about what kinds of packaging you purchase your food in, to reduce waste.  For example, though I will now with ease of conscience purchase Tetra Pak cartons knowing that I have facilities available to me that do recycle them, I also found out that glass is the only recycled product that is 100% reused, in other words it is not wasted at all. So, I will still try to purchase as much as I can in glass.

Second, if you are still concerned about Tetra Paks and want to know more about the packaging that is so prevalent at your local supermarkets, then I recommend going to their website:

The Green Room
Our Commitment
Forestry Guidelines

I found these pages on their site to be extremely helpful and informative.

Finally, and possibly most important, find out if you can recycle tetra paks in your community by visiting:

If your city or county does not currently recycle cartons check out this tool kit:

You can use this information to petition to get your city recycling program to include cartons.  The best way to do this is to get 100 or more signatures of citizens in your town who want this recycling program in their community.  Then get on the agenda for an upcoming city council meeting (which is usually not difficult), then take a friend or two and present the petition to the city council.  The thing about politics is that changing processes take both time and money, so if nothing comes of this right away you just have to keep strong and continue to bug your city aldermen and your mayor, until they do something about it.

Anyhow, I hope that this clears the record for Tetra Pak cartons and I hope that you have found this blog post informative and helpful to your own sustainably culinary life style.

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