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RE: [BBAN]: [greenyes] Aseptic container background

I appreciate the history given here.

I find it interesting that the collection programs for aseptics on the East
Coast that I know of are in the New York/New England area - up around where
the ban was.

It seems to me, just like it was noted with PS foam, that attempts at a
product ban may be a good way to force some producer responsibility to help
setup recovery for items.

I don't know of any aseptic recycling in PA - I usually try to avoid
beverages in cartons or chicken broath or drinks in aseptics - but I prefer
soymilk that happens to come in those containers.

Which also brings to the point - is it better to buy, say orange juice in a
plastic jug or in a carton/aseptic if those recycling programs are in place.

If anyone buys single serving juices these days you'll notice that if you
try to avoid juice boxes you may find yourself with non-recyclable bottles -
I believe it's Welchs that is going in a #5 or #7 bottle.


Stephen N. Weisser, Sales Manager
GreenLine Paper Company, Inc.
631 S. Pine Street
York, PA 17403

-----Original Message-----
From: EarthGB@no.address [mailto:EarthGB@no.address]
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2005 9:22 AM
To: koplow@no.address; gary@no.address; greenyes@no.address
Subject: Re: [BBAN]: [greenyes] Aseptic container background

Some history on the aseptic package:

The aseptic container, or drink box, actually was banned in 1 New England
state, I think Maine, in the late 1980's. This was around the same time as
foamed polystyrene bans were passed in various parts of the US. At that
the Mobro garbage barge, global warming, hole in the ozone layer, medical
wastes washing up on beaches, and solid waste and environmental problems in
general combined to create high levels of public awareness and a different
leading to activism and lots of legislation.

The makers of aseptic packages joined forces and formed tha Aseptic
Council, which I think is now defunct. However, for about 5 years, maybe
longer, they implemented quite good recycling programs for drink boxes and
polycoated milk cartons, primarily in the schools. They included milk
cartons in
the program, even though they weren't the manufacturers, in order to get the
critical mass of materials for cost-effective recycling. Polycoat milk
manufacturers didn't contribute a penny to this effort, though they
from the PR.

At the time, I had the opportunity to learn more about the history of the
aseptic package. The concept was originated (if I remember right) by the
wife of
the founder of TetraPak in Sweden. This was immediately after World War II,
at a time when there were severe food shortages in Europe, made worse by the
damaged transportation and distribution infrastructure. When food supplies
get to places where they were needed, the lack of refrigeration meant that
many urgently needed foodstuffs spoiled before they could be used.

The "tetrapak" was designed to be filled and sealed under aseptic (ultra
sanitary) conditions, with flash heating, flash cooling, and filling of
containers in a sterile environment so that the products in them would have
long shelf life without refrigeration. The layers of paper, aluminum foil,
polyethylene film provided barrier properties to help preserve the
primarily milk and other liquid products.

This is still how the packages are made & filled. Another advantage of
besides energy saving, is that no preservatives or additives need to be put
in the food contents. Aseptics are widely used in Europe for dairy
soups, sauces, etc, & I've noticed their use in the US has expanded into
of the same applications.

While the Aseptic Packaging Council's recycling programs were underway, they
made much progress getting some paper mills with pulping capabilities to
hydro-pulp the used packages (drink boxes and milk cartons) and recover the
fiber bleached sulphate paper, a prime material with very good demand &
As I recall, there were even some interesting breakthroughs, like gettting
National Geographic Magazine to agree to use the recovered fiber.

The paper portion was about 2/3 or 3/4 of the bulk of the packages. The
residue of film and foil was the only part not recovered, though it was
effectively separated from the paper via hydro-pulping, then landfilled, as
I recall.

The APC (Aseptic Packaging Council) funded a fairly good recovery network in
about half the US states with the largest population concentrations. They
excellent education materials/programs and recycling coordinators
strategically positioned to help shepherd recovery. It was an impressive
especially considering that just 2 companies--TetraPak and
Combiblock--picked up the
entire tab.

The program wasn't perfect. There were logistics problems, and MRFs had
trouble handling/baling the messy containers because of liquid residues of
milk &
juice. To APC's credit, however, much R&D effort and equipment development
was done to address these issues. Research was also done on technologies to
separate the aluminum foil from the PE film in the hydro-pulping residue.
this happened in the early 90's.

No solution was found at that time, but it appears--from the Alcoa
announcement--that the problem is being revisited. Given the oil and energy
now, it makes good sense to try to reclaim the plastic film and Al foil.
Shipping savings also are very important today. On strength to weight ratio
aseptics beat all other package forms hands-down. This was confirmed by a
Institute study in the early 90's.

While I don't personally advocate the proliferation of hard-to-recycle
packages, I did learn that there are other sides to the aseptic package
Being able to deliver product without preservatives and additives, and with
nutrition retention than, say, canning, definitely appealed to me. Also, as
a former CA resident, I appreciated being able to include aseptic packaged
foodstuffs in my earthquake preparedness kit.

As for the ban on this package in Maine, it was eventually repealed (approx
mid-90's), in large part due to the impressive recycling efforts of APC.
However, I think that nationally organized drink box and milk carton
gradually tapered off after this.

If Alcoa's initiative will breathe new life into aseptic recycling, I think
it could be a very good thing. Let's hope we see continued progress from
and not simply a flash in the pan for PR reasons.

Gretchen Brewer
NM Environment Dept, Solid Waste Bureau
Santa Fe, NM

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