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Recycling aseptic cartons.

Thank you for the good advice about disaster preparedness [Green Guidance] in the Sept/Oct '06 issue. And I particularly appreciate the mention of avoiding bisphenol-A in most food cans. Sadly, toxic concerns usually disappear in emergencies.

I'm curious though, about the advice to use foods in aseptic cartons, and the mention that those cartons are recyclable. Anything is recycle-able, if the effort is made. But in my understanding these packages are made of such mixed up materials, including plastics which add toxic concerns, that recycling is difficult. Where I live, recycling is marginal anyway, but I certainly am unaware of any efforts to recycle these mixed material cartons.

I would like further information, please, and I am sure other people could use it, too.


Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

Green Guidance columnist Paul McRandle responds: Aseptic packages are made of layers of cardboard (70 percent of the product), polyethylene plastic (24 percent), and aluminum (6 percent). Milk cartons, produced in much greater amounts, are also made of layers of paper and plastic and both cartons and aseptic packages can only be recycled by "hydropulping," which separates the layers to recover the paper content. While independent recycling statistics are difficult to come by, Tetra Pak, a leading manufacturer, says that 43 million Americans have access to aseptic container recycling through curbside programs or dropoff centers. Tetra Pak notes that 20 billion, or 16 percent, of their packages were recycled worldwide in 2005, up from 14 billion in 2001. And the company is committed to achieving a 25-percent recycling rate by 2008. By comparison, the United States recycles only 20 percent of its glass and plastic bottles, according to the Container Recycling Institute (Sweden does much better, recycling 80 percent of plastic bottles). In the United States, you can find out more about recycling options in your area by plugging your zip code into the database at

As for toxicity, polyethylene plastic, while petroleum-based, hasn't been shown to leach harmful chemicals. Aluminum mining, however, is very energy intensive. Given the fuel consumed in transporting heavy glass bottles, aseptic packaging does make for a useful alternative where recycling is available.
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Title Annotation:FROM READERS
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Previous Article:Katrina and race.
Next Article:Agriculture and population.

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