Are Tetra Packs Recyclable? How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?
Tetra packs are carton packaging made from 75% paperboard. Since most of this package is made of paperboard, you naturally assume it is recyclable. The other 25% of the tetra pack is plastic and aluminum, making this package a sustainable solution. While the container is entirely recyclable, the problem arises when your community needs a facility dealing with this type of waste. Since special equipment goes into recycling tetra packs, some countries are fighting to get the facilities required. Tetra packs can become a severe source of pollution when not handled properly.
To learn how tetra packs are disposed of and how you can contribute to adequate recycling, read our article below.
What Are Tetra Packs Made Of?
To know whether tetra packs are entirely recyclable, we need to know their exact composition. While you may believe that tetra packs are made entirely from paperboard, there are more than a few materials that make up this product—around six. Each of the six layers in the tetra pack package has its purpose, and together they serve to keep the product inside as fresh as possible.
Types of Tetra Pack
There are two types of tetra packaging, which are differentiated by the material that goes into the manufacturing. There are aseptic and non-aseptic tetra packs. Aseptic cartons are made of paperboard, polyethylene, and aluminum, providing the product with a long shelf-life. The aluminum serves as extra protection, allowing the product to sit out without the need for refrigeration. Non-aseptic cartons, on the other hand, do not contain a layer of aluminum foil and need refrigeration to stay fresh.
Are Tetra Packs Sustainable?
The sustainability of tetra packs is questionable, like with most materials. Every packaging type has its benefits and drawbacks, and the biggest drawback of tetra packs is the use of plastic. Four out of six layers on tetra packs are made with polyethylene, a form of plastic. Plastic makes up around 20% of the entire package, which may not seem a lot since paperboard takes up the majority of the package.
Nevertheless, with such a vast demand for this package, plastic pollution can quickly add up. The quality of the plastic used for tetra packs is still being determined, and each plastic sheet becomes waste after a few cycles. However, tetra packs’ low carbon footprint makes them a popular packaging solution.
Can You Recycle Tetra Packs?
The reason why the tetra pack is so valuable and popular is its lightweight construction. Since they can be packed close together, more tetra packs can be transported, lowering carbon emissions. Also, much less material goes into making them. However, the lightness of the layers of tetra packs is what makes the package challenging to recycle. Since the tetra pack is made with light layers of polyethylene, paper, and aluminum, special equipment is required for recycling.
While the Tetra Pak company claims this packaging is entirely recyclable, it cannot be accepted by every recycling facility. Only those facilities with special equipment and machinery can handle this packaging. In certain countries where there is only one company for recycling tetra packs, these cartons present a significant source of pollution.
How to Dispose of Tetra Packs Properly
The first step to properly and correctly recycling tetra packs is to check whether your country has an appropriate facility to collect and handle tetra packs. If you find out that your local facility can handle this type of waste, you can place the tetra pack in the recycling bin, as no special sorting is required.
Another way to reuse old tetra packs for something useful instead of throwing them in the trash is to make them into flowerpots. After using the tetra pack, wash it thoroughly and punch a few holes in its bottom. Fill the clean container with soil and use it to plant seeds. You can create many different items, such as a pen holder for your office or a reusable food container. Once you collect and wash all your tetra packs, be creative and innovative and think of ways to repurpose these packages.
After researching tetra packs and whether you can recycle them, you should be much more aware of the importance of recycling each item correctly. Since tetra packs have a unique form with multiple layers, they require special methods for recycling.
Compared to plastic packaging, tetra packs are a sustainable solution with much lower carbon emissions and are excellent at keeping the product inside fresh and unspoiled. That said, they can be a challenge to recycle.
Featured Image Credit: wavebreakmedia, Shutterstock