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News Item DetailsCity Trash & Recycling

Milk cartons and juice boxes are now recyclable in your blue bin

Milk containers? Coconut water boxes? Juice boxes? Soup containers? We want ‘em.

Milk containers? Coconut water boxes? Juice boxes? Soup containers? We want ‘em.


All these cartons - what are known as “aseptic containers” as well as anything with a gabled top -- are now accepted in your blue residential recycling carts. That includes all types of “Tetra Pak” packaging.  This is true throughout the City of Santa Barbara and the South County.


Cartons simply need to be emptied. A quick rinse is helpful to reduce odor while it sits in the blue bin.


What’s Included?

  • Milk cartons

  • Juice boxes

  • Broth boxes

  • Wine boxes

  • Soy milk cartons

  • Orange juice cartons

  • Cream cartons


Do I need to remove the cap or straw when recycling my cartons?

Yes, please remove caps and straws.


Do I need to rinse my cartons?

There are no requirements to rinse your cartons but a quick rinse is helpful to reduce odor and rot. As long as the carton is empty, it is okay to place in your recycling. However, you may want to rinse your cartons to ensure the carton is totally empty and to alleviate any potential odor problems while it sits in your recycling bin.


What Are  Cartons Made Of?

Cartons are mainly made from paper in the form of paperboard, as well as thin layers of polyethylene (plastic) and/or aluminum. Shelf-stable cartons contain on average 74% paper, 22% polyethylene and 4% aluminum. Refrigerated cartons contain about 80% paper and 20% polyethylene.


refrigerated cartonshelf stable carton
images care of RecycleCartons.com

Is there a waxy coating on cartons? Isn’t that why they are difficult to recycle?

What you may see as wax on a carton is actually a thin layer of polyethylene (plastic). Cartons are not difficult to recycle as long as the right systems are in place to do so.


What Can They Be Turned Into?

Cartons are desirable for the fiber -- that is, the paper.  It is high quality, long, bleached, virgin fiber.  That fiber can be used in several applications including tissue, towelling product, de-inked pulp and

green building products such as wallboard.Some mills can recover plastic and aluminum as well, but not all.


What happens to cartons after they are collected?

After cartons are collected curbside, they are taken to a materials recycling facility to be sorted and baled. The bales of  recycled cartons are then shipped to paper mills, where cartons are mixed with water in a gigantic blender to extract all the paper fiber from the plastic and aluminum. The paper fiber is then ready to be used in making new products such as recycled paper products and even building materials.


What’s Changed?

All recyclables are driven by market forces. It takes an end-buyer for us to make something recyclable. And that buyer needs to be able to break it down and make something useful out of it.


The Carton Council has been working hard to increase the recyclability and recycling rate of cartons. There are now at least ten mills in North America that accept cartons for recycling.

Last Updated: Dec 2, 2013