Updated: Aug 25
For the longest time, we were putting our cartons of oat milk into our recycling bin without a care into the world. We would throw them in there without a second thought and then, one day, we found out that none of them had been recycled. None! We'd had no idea that in the areas that we live, and in a lot of other areas of the UK, plant-milk cartons can't be recycled as easily as you may think.
When you take a sip from your next carton of plant-based milk, check on the packaging to see which company has created it. The chances are, it is probably Tetra Pak packaging, or perhaps Pure-Pak packaging. These companies claim that they are a sustainable alternative to plastic and that they can be recycled, and technically they can be...
but you may have to take those cartons to a special recycling facility and, even then, a lot of these cartons are shipped overseas in order to be broken down and used again.
What is Tetra Pak?
According to Tetra Pak's website, this is what the packaging is:
"Tetra Pak cartons are primarily made from paper. 75% of the Tetra Pak carton is made from paperboard, 20% of polyethylene and 5% of aluminium."
"These three materials are layered together using heat and pressure to form a six layered armour which protects the contents from light, oxygen, air, dirt and moisture. Furthermore Tetra Pak cartons are lightweight, easy to transport and fully recyclable. The aseptic technology allows the product inside to stay fresh, without the need of any preservatives. The pack need not be refrigerated until opened."
Can I put my milk cartons in my recycling bin?
This link will let you search for your local authority and see if you can put your milk or beverage cartons in your recycling bin at home. If not, it will tell you the details of where you would need to take them to if you want them to be recycled:
There is only one recycling plant in the country that can recycle beverage cartons, so most of the cartons that do get recycled are shipped overseas to be broken down there. If your local authority has a star on it on the map, then you're one of the few who will have your cartons recycled in this country!
It's true to say that Tetra-Pak is doing better now than they were a few years ago but, according to Tetra-Pak's sustainability report 2020, only 50 billion of the 190 billion cartons they sold in 2019 were recycled. It's hard to even fathom what 140 BILLION cartons would look like, but they are out there taking up space in the planet right now with no hope of breaking down anytime soon. It's irresponsible of the packaging companies to be so vague about their recycling processes. Often, they'll put a recycling symbol on their cartons because technically they can be recycled - but they are not being transparent about the fact that they expect their consumers to take them to a recycling point themselves. Which is what Lucy and I do now.
It's one of the reason we get so excited about making our own oat milk. Making your own oat milk means that you eliminate the carbon footprint created by the cartons altogether. Most of the popular oat milk brands make their oat milk overseas and ship it to supermarkets so, by making it yourself, you eliminate the carbon footprint there too. It's better for the planet, cheaper and takes hardly any time at all. What's not to love?
Tetra Pak's 2020 sustainability report:
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