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[GreenYes] Re: milk carton and aseptic package recycling/composting
Hi Debbi,
   The transportation issue of the cartons certainly is an aspect of the 
milk/juice carton that i had not thought of.  That truly is an asset and is 
environmentally friendlier.
   I tried to contact Tetra Pak when i was researching for my paper but i 
could not find your website in an english format.  i tried for a while, but 
to no avail.  that was about 6 months ago.
   my experiment revealed to me that after one and a half months, the milk 
carton did not degrade even slightly in a compost pile managed by my 
university (Appalachian State).  This pile was very aerobically active, held 
at a constant 130-140 degrees F, and was about 20'wide, 8'tall, 10'deep.  i 
even shredded these cartons to different size strips at widths from 1/8" - 
  this indicates very possible problems with compost residency times - maybe 
not so much with smaller projects ie. high schools, residential; but with 
municiple compost waste management systems, (where the cartons probably 
won't even be shredded) where time constraints exist, the carton, due to its 
polyethylene layers both inside and out, may outlast the other materials.
  I agree with you that the production, transportation, and vitamin saving 
aspects of the carton may very well be superior - but what about the other 
half of the loop?
  you mentioned that schools and cities are working to recycle and compost 
the cartons but what about Tetra Pak's and International Paper Co.'s efforts 
to create and support an infrastructure to deal with your products after the 
consumer's use?  why put all the responsibility on the consumer to compost 
the cartons and find markets to deal with the recycling process that the 
vast majority of paper mills don't facilitate?
  You boast (and rightly so) about the first part of your "smart cycle."  
wouldn't it be nice to boast about the last part of your cycle as well?
thanks for your time,
~mark barron

>From: "Debbi Dodson" <>
>Subject: milk carton and aseptic package recycling/composting
>Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 13:03:27 -0700
>Hi Mark:  A friend on the GreenYes list serve forwarded your email 
>the recyclability/compostability of milk cartons and aseptic packaging.  I
>am the West Coast Environmental Coordinator for Tetra Pak, a manufacturer 
>these packages.
>First I wanted to commend you on the innovative reuse of the cartons.  I've
>heard of using them for bird feeders and planters, but never roof shingles.
>Glad they are working for you.
>Second, I wanted to correct a couple of statements  you made.  Milk cartons
>are not aka aseptic packaging.  They are two different types of packages.
>They have similarities, primarily in composition,  but they are different.
>The average milk carton is 85% paper and 15% low-density polyethylene.  The
>average aseptic package is 70% paper, 24% low density polyethylene and 6%
>aluminum.  Their difference is primarily in how the packages are
>manufactured, filled, transported and stored -- the aseptic carton having
>the environmental advantage of the two packages in these categories.
>Contrary to your statement, these packages are not examples of bad
>packaging.  The old familiar paper milk carton is still the best package 
>milk when you consider the purpose of the package -- maintaining product
>hygiene and protecting the nutrients and flavor.  Light, artificial or
>natural, is an enemy to the nutrients in milk.  According to a 1986 Cornell
>University Study, milk loses a little over 50% of its vitamin A after 12
>hours of exposure to light, and 90% of its vitamin A after 24 hours.  Glass
>and translucent plastic packages offer no protection against this light
>intrusion.  Consider  how long the milk containers sit in the grocer's
>refrigerator before being purchased and consider again which package
>contains the more nutritious product at the time of purchase.
>The aseptic package is one of the most environmentally responsible packages
>on the market today.  In 1996 the aseptic package was awarded the
>Presidential Award for Sustainable Development.  No other package has
>received this environmental honor.  The Tellus Institute, an independent
>environmental research firm, conducted a study examining the environmental
>impacts of various single-serve packaging materials.  Their conclusion was
>that the aseptic carton was one of the best single-serve packaging choices
>for the environment.
>As I'm sure you are aware, the waste hierarchy is "reduce, reuse, recycle".
>The aseptic package is one of the most source reduced packages available.
>It is 96% product and only 4% package.  Everything from its manufacture
>through transportation and storage is environmentally friendly.  Because of
>the unique method in which the cartons are manufactured, they are shipped 
>our customers as large rolls, (rather than as formed cartons).  This 
>means that 1.5 million single-serve aseptic packages can be shipped on one
>truck, vs the 14 trucks that would be required to ship the same number of
>glass bottles.  Once filled at our customer's sites, these packages require
>no refrigeration during transportation to the grocers or in storage.  These
>features result in a huge energy savings.
>Currently, 20% of households in the U.S. that have curbside recycling can
>recycle aseptic cartons and milk cartons in their curbside program.  
>added these packages to their program just last year.  You are partially
>correct in stating that programs have difficulty collecting enough of them
>to make it worth the effort, (they make up approximately .01% of the waste
>stream).  However, one of the outcomes for programs that face this 
>is that these packages are now being included in mixed paper.  The cities 
>Portland, OR, Long Beach, CA and Chula Vista, CA all collect these packages
>in their mixed paper collection programs.
>And finally, regarding the compostability of the cartons, I must disagree
>with your assertion that the cartons are not compostable.  The milk cartons
>from Los Angeles Unified School District have been composted by San Joaquin
>Composting for over 3 years now.  The City of San Francisco, after
>conducting a pilot, includes milk cartons in their residential composting
>program, (pilot program for aseptic packages is pending).  In fact, the 
>recommends that the milk carton be used as the perfect collection vehicle 
>move kitchen food scraps from the kitchen down to the curbside bin.  We are
>now working with Jeff Gage, LRI in Puyallup, WA to establish a school
>cafeterias to compost program in Western Washington.  While it is true that
>the plastic does not decompose and must be screened off, the paper fiber
>does compost.
>Thanks for reading through this long missive.  I appreciate your 
>to listen.  Don't hesitate to drop me a line if you have any questions 
>any of the above, or about any questions I may not have addressed.  Debbi
>Debbi Dodson
>West Coast Environmental Coordinator
>Tetra Pak
>4209 Huerfano Avenue
>San Diego, CA   92117
>858-272-6804 phone
>858-272-6805 fax

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