While more and more cities are encouraging residents to throw milk and juice cartons in their curbside, this has not been demonstrated to translate into actual recycling of cartons.
According to Mark Oldfield, a spokesman for the state agency CalRecycle, "It’s important to make a distinction between collected and recycled. It quite often comes back to, what do they have locally in terms of processing capability?"
To date, there are no California processing or end-use markets for Cartons, creating an economic and environmental opportunity loss.
"Californians have been very responsive to curbside recycling, and if we tell them something is recyclable in their curbside program, they’re very happy to change their habits," Californians Against Waste head MarkMurray said. "It’s coming in the door, but the problem is we need to create an incentive for the processing facility."
One such incentive could be through California’s Bottle Bill program which provides consumers and recyclers with a 5-cent or 10-cent recycling incentive. Built into the program are manufacturer incentives to design for recycling as well as support for development of end-use markets.
Today, better than 80 percent of beverage containers covered by the Bottle Bill are returned for recycling. Most of these beverage container materials are processed and manufactured into new materials here in the state.
While Cartons often contain beverages that are covered by the California bottle bill (juices, juice drinks, soy beverages), carton packaging are currently exempt from the program.
Inclusion of Cartons in the bottle bill program will help increase recycling rates, increase environmental accountability and help even the playing field for all beverage material types.