The high value of paper in the recycling process

The JUST water bottle falls into the “carton” category of recycling because it has three different materials in it. Cartons are good because they are sturdy and keep food safe while at the same time use more renewable resources and less fossil fuels in their makeup. Orange juices, milks and creams, soy and grain milks, soups and egg substitutes that come in cartons can all be recycled.

Paper in the low carbon economy

Cartons are made mainly from high-quality paper.  The paper making process is oftentimes carbon neutral because paper mills produce biomass that can be used to power the process and even the city or town where the paper mill is located.

Cartons are easily recyclable as their paper and aluminum content is in demand. Recycling paper is a process called hydropulping where water is used to restore paper to a usable pulp for new products. The water is usually reused throughout the process.

While cartons contain biodegradable materials, the form itself is not biodegradable. But when they are recycled, they have the ability to move down the line to new products that require less energy and less carbon emission to produce.

The environmental benefits of recycling come chiefly from reducing the need to manufacture new products – less mining, drilling and logging. The top benefit of recycling is reduced emissions of greenhouse gases from making recycled items from high value materials like paper, cardboard and metals like the aluminum in soda cans.


The carton recycling process is actually quite simple with the use of something called a hydropulper to separate the paper from the other materials (plastic and aluminum). The paper fiber is recycled into paper products. The plastic and aluminum is also recovered for use in energy fuels, pallets and building products.

Access to paperboard recycling across the US & Canada

The best factor in making paper pulp, plastic and aluminum from cartons even more valuable is greater access to curbside recycling. It’s growing and available throughout more and more U.S. cities. The main drivers continuing growth in access are due largely to the work done by the carton manufacturers but also due to the growing acceptance of cartons by consumers. This is helpful for a number of reasons, there is an economic incentive for them as more recycling access will create more value and use their products, but it’s also unilaterally part of their company’s sustainability commitments. To have both social and economic incentives at work simultaneously in the form of devoted advocacy, energy and resources will help access reach 99% in the not far off future like in the European Union where carton recycling is between 95-100%.

Current Access Numbers 2017

Find out if carton recycling is in your area yet?

Bottles & Cartons in the recycling stream:

Milk, juice, soup & beverage cartons

Aluminum & other metal cans

Glass bottles & jars

Newspapers, brochures & inserts

File folders, office paper

Greeting cards, regular & junk mail

Paperboard boxes
(cereal, pasta, tissue ect)

Loose metal jar lids & steel bottle caps

Corrugated cardboard (flattened)

Magazines & catalogues

Phone books

#1 and #2 plastic bottles & jugs (caps removed)