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Can You Recycle Milk and Juice Cartons?

How many of you throw your empty milk and juice cartons into the recycle bin?Recycling Milk Containers

*raises hand*

Oops.  Apparently, milk and juice cartons are not always recyclable.  Some towns will take the cartons, some won't.

But WHY?

Milk and juice cartons are difficult to recycle, because many have a wax lining or a plastic coating.  Some recycling centers are equipped to recycle them, but some aren't.  Call your city to see if they do recycle cartons.

The Green Luvin' blog says that:  "One of the biggest challenges with carton recycling is generating volume enough for the recycling chain to make a profit out of recycling cartons."

If your city doesn't accept cartons, is it time to forgo the paper cartons and go for the plastic jugs?  Plastic jugs are definitely recyclable, right?  Not so fast.

For one thing, it is believed that paper cartons have a smaller carbon footprint than the plastic jugs.  Also, you can compost shredded milk and juice cartons!   (Maybe I need to add that to my list of compostable items? )

Some natural grocery stores also carry glass milk jugs and allow you to bring them back to get a refill or a discount on your next milk purchase.  Some milk delivery services also offer milk in glass jugs.

Soy milk cartons are often another story.   Those types of cartons often contain a layer of foil and a plastic coating.  The reason they do this is because soy milk is often sold at room temperature.  This is another something else that you should find out if your city recycles, because some might be equipped to recycle them, while others may not.   However, these kinds of cartons have a low carbon footprint, because unlike regular milk, they don't need to be refrigerated during transport.

The good news is that Waste Management and Tropicana started a program earlier this year to encourage more recycling for juice and milk cartons!  Read all about it at Earth911.

What if your city doesn't recycle milk and juice cartons and you don't have a way to compost them? Upcycling time! Have your kids do crafts with them!  Birdhouses, fun and decorative storage boxes...the possibilities are endless!


paper milk cartons make great disposable compost bins!

my favorite use of paper milk cartons is to use them as compost bins.  they only last about 2-3 days and it's small enough to fit in the refrigerator and fills up fast enough that it never seems to smell.  then, when it's full, i take it down to my condo building's compost bin!  in san francisco, composting is mandatory and our disposal company allows us to put paper milk cartons in our bins.

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