Carton Recycling Markets

There are solid markets for food and beverage cartons. When the Carton Council formed in 2009 and began building an infrastructure in the U.S. for carton recycling, we recognized that a crucial component is end markets.

Many mills in North America accept cartons. Cartons are made from a high-quality paperboard, and mills equipped to recover that fiber are able to recycle the carton material into marketable consumer products.

In addition to the paperboard, cartons have thin layers of polyethylene (plastic). Shelf-stable cartons also have a thin layer of aluminum to enable the product to be stored safely without refrigeration. These materials can also be recovered and recycled.

Brokers traditionally sell cartons to paper mills in North America and around the world for manufacturing paper products. Paper from recycled cartons is an affordable, sustainable component used to make products like tissues, paper towels, office and writing paper.

“A carton’s paperboard is what’s called a long-fiber paperboard, which means it retains its quality as it is recycled. We put cartons into a hydrapulper, which is essentially a giant blender. The non-fiber materials are separated and can be marketed elsewhere. What’s left is clean fiber that we bale and sell to paper manufacturers all over North America.

We expect carton recycling to increase so dramatically, we’re actually working toward adding additional equipment to handle the increased supply of cartons.”

Adam Kositske, Fiber Purchasing Manager, Fox River Fiber

Another end market option for cartons is for them to be sent to a facility that uses the entire carton to make environmentally friendly building products for the construction industry, such as roof cover board, floor underlayment and wall board.

As the number of products packaged in cartons continues to increase and consumers purchase more and more of these products, the value of carton recycling for all involved is clear. Not only is carton recycling good business, but it also helps preserve natural resources, meet important diversion and recycling rates, and sustain jobs.

If you are a mill or other facility and are interested in learning more about how cartons can benefit you, email us at Carton.Recycling@hkstrategies.com.

“The properties of cartons are exactly what building materials need. The inherent nature of food and beverage cartons is perfect in preventing moisture and mold. They allow for strong and durable end products that range from interior wall boards, roof cover board, ceiling tiles, exterior sheathing and floor underlayment. And the best part is that we’re able to use every part of the carton, caps and all, to create these products.” 

Jan Rayman, Chief Executive Officer, The ReWall Company