Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tetrapaks and the Environment

This month's challenge is to recycle tetrapaks, the laminated paper cartons used for milk, juice, soup, smoothies and all sorts of other uses. But isn't it better to avoid cartons altogether in favour of more environmentally-friendly packaging options?

In fact, although they look high-tech, tetrapaks are a very green choice. They take much less energy to produce than glass bottles or tin cans, and since they are lighter and stack more closely than bottles or cans, they also require much less energy to transport. They include less non-biodegradable material than plastic bottles, and are mostly made from renewable raw materials rather than oil-based plastic. And now that I know they can be recycled they look like a very appealing choice indeed.

For example, you may have heard other greenies railing against the growing popularity of bottled water, because of the packaging waste it produces. But an innovative company in Sussex called Aquapax have begun packaging mineral water in tetrapaks instead of plastic bottles. I'll always choose tap water instead wherever that's an option, which is most places I ever go. But sometimes bottled (or at least packaged) water is a good choice, and water in cartons is a better choice than water in bottles, especially if you recycle the carton.

Are you ready to take this month's challenge to recycle your cartons? Don't forget to vote in the poll in the right-hand sidebar.

9 comments:

kethry said...

one thing i've started doing: getting UHT milk in tetrapacks, rather than the big milk cartons. Its cheaper, (important at the moment as the price of milk is going up a lot) and i don't have to worry so much about it going off. In aldi its 44p for a litre, as opposed to 62p for a litre of the fresh stuff, and of course, the UHT stuff comes in tetrapacks!

donna said...

i'd stopped buying uht milk as i didnt think the tetrapaks could be recycled, thought the plastic containers were a better option because of this. thanks for putting us straight.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank said...

In the U.S., Tetra Pak aseptic cartons are very difficult to recycle and generally contaminate the waste stream. I'm talking about the cartons that contain layers of plastic, cardboard, and aluminum. Read what the organization, Californians Against Waste, has to say about them in my article, "Wait! Are you sure that's recyclable?"

I realize that you are writing from the U.K., but I just want to clarify for U.S. readers that Tetra Pak for us might not be as green.

Also, keep in mind that plastic comes along with multiple environmental problems even before it's made into containers. Have you heard of nurdles? They are tiny plastic pellets of raw plastic, the way plastic is shipped before being processed into products. They are a big problem for marine life, as they blow off container ships, and are a big reason that toxins are entering the food chain, as hydrophobic toxins cling to them and are consumed by phytoplankton. Read more here.

I would beware of recommending any container containing plastic. We need to find better alternatives. And we need to give up bottled water, no matter what it's packaged in. Water is a human right and should not be privatized by corporations who bottle our own tap water and sell it back to us at a premium. The only time I would ever consider bottled water would be while traveling abroad in an area that simply does not offer drinkable water.

Otherwise, I carry my stainless steel Klean Kanteen everywhere and refill it at the local tap.

She Who Digs said...

Sadly, our council has just introduced a fortnightly 'Twin Bin' wheelie bin collection scheme, which means we can no longer recycle Tetra-Pac cartons (or aluminium foil)locally! I can see myself saving up all my soya milk & juice cartons and taking them to my parents in West Sussex when we next visit!

Over all the council aim to increase their recycling levels by encouraging more people to participate, but for us regular recyclers it just seems a bit mad! (Have to be a bit careful with what I say, as I work for the same ‘establishment’!! ) SWD

Melanie Rimmer said...

Hi Beth, you make lots of good points and I won't answer them all here.

I'd like to see our society wean itself off plastic altogether, but it's not going to happen overnight. Tetrapaks contain very much less plastic than a plastic bottle. That's one of the reasons why I say they're a better alternative to bottles.

As for your reasoning that water shouldn't be bottled - I can't agree. When I turn on my tap, I am paying for that water. After it all, it costs money to collect, purify, store and transport it. When I am thirsty away from home, I can buy a bottle of coke or orange soda. But they're just water with sugar and flavourings added. Sometimes I'd rather drink just plain water, and I'm happy to pay for it.

I like your idea of carrying a canteen with you everywhere, though.

Tractorboy said...

Hard to avoid tetra packs and we have tried in my family. Still get our milk delivered by the Co-op although you will see from my blog that the price is really going up (http://www.greenjellybean.org.uk/2007/09/real-cost-of-milk.html). At last, we can recycle these in Norfolk. Not kerbside collection though so you have to save them up to reduce the driving to the dump. The Green Party here is strong and seems to be having a positive influence.

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