Can You Recycle Milk Cartons?

A carton is made of a thin layer of plastic or polyethylene sandwiched between two layers of paper. A coating of metal coats shelf-stable boxes.

Due to this, milk cartons are recycled with other metal, glass, and plastic containers. The cartons should be separated at the recycling plant and disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Carton recycling does not require rinsing. However, if you’re worried about odors, you might want to do this. The container should also not be flattened.

There will be less confusion when the item is in its standard shape for sorters at recycling facilities.

Milk Carton Types

Milk cartons come in two primary varieties: gable top and aseptic (which is sometimes known as “shelf-stable”, since aseptic containers may be stored on a shelf and do not need to be kept cold).

Aseptic containers package sauces, soups, wine, juices, cow’s milk, and various alternative kinds of milk such as soy, oat, rice, and others, in addition to many other liquid items.

Boxes in the refrigerated section are around 80 percent paper and 20 percent plastic (with a layer of plastic on the outside and the inside).

The ingredients in aseptic containers are varied. Their composition might differ, but on average, they are made up of 74% paper, 4% metal layers, and 22% plastic.

Even though wax hasn’t been applied to these cartons in a long time, they may sometimes be mistaken for wax-coated.

Takeout and ice cream containers, for example, are composed of different materials and may or may not be recyclable.

Is It Possible to Recycle Milk Containers?

The human population continues to grow, and so does the number of purchases made by customers.

Changing habits like eating at fast-food restaurants and using single-use plastic containers have contributed to a rise in the quantity of garbage we create.

This problem is exacerbated because many modern storage container materials are not biodegradable. Since your container is recyclable, it won’t degrade as quickly as other waste.

This is because living creatures cannot decompose them to their original form. On the other hand, milk cartons may be broken down into smaller pieces.

They’re made of natural paper. Because paper is made from trees, microorganisms can interact with it. Due to its thin plastic layer, it can take as long as five years to decompose completely.

Also read: Are Kleenex Boxes Recyclable?

What Are the Benefits of Recycling Milk Cartons?

Recycling your cartons is a terrific way to keep unnecessary trash out of landfills, but your green contribution can start when you’re shopping.

Look for containers that incorporate recyclable materials. Choosing sustainable product packaging upfront will save you energy in the long run.

Remanufacturing cartons into new items is very desirable because of the excellent quality of the materials utilized.

It is possible to reuse all three materials that are used to produce cartons. During the recycling process, it isn’t easy to separate these components.

If your curbside service accepts recyclables, you may save waste by washing the carton first.

Many facilities are committed to making carton recycling more widely available and making sure the resources used to build them are reused after they’ve been emptied of their contents.

Using recycled paper and plastic reduces the cost of the next box shipped to customers, saving manufacturers money.

What Should I Know About Recycling Milk Cartons?

The recycling rules in your neighborhood may be found by contacting your local recycling or trash disposal company.

Despite its growing popularity, curbside pickup is not yet accessible in all areas.

If your box includes straws, lids, or other accessories, remove them. They’re disposed of in the trash.

You can also recycle empty cartons. While rinsing isn’t necessary for recycling, it helps guarantee that the container is open and reduces the risk of recyclables smelling or having pest problems.

Flattening boxes is unnecessary and might slow down the recycling process. Skip it if you’re not sure about it.

All recycling processes should adhere to this simple rule of thumb. To avoid polluting your local recycling system, don’t put anything in your recycling that you aren’t confident about.

What Happens to Milk Carton Recycling?

The materials found in milk containers are of the highest quality and may be recycled to create new goods. Separating these components is the most challenging task for recyclers.

According to the Carton Council (a group of significant carton manufacturers), recycling cartons into new products is possible in two methods.

Packing cartons together and delivering them in bulk to a paper mill is an option known as hydrapulper. That makes it possible to separate the paper from the plastic and metal.

Paper towels, printing paper, and tissues are all made from pulp. It is possible to make ceiling tiles and wallboard from plastic and metal.

You can give cartons to a recycler who uses them to manufacture items for construction. Shredded cartons are reformed into sheets by pressing them together again.

A 4 ft. by 8 ft. building board requires roughly 400 cartons.

The Best Way to Recycle Milk Containers

Whether gable-top or aseptic, you can recycle milk cartons in several ways:

Mailing the Carton

If you don’t have curbside recycling for these containers, you might be able to send them in.

Drop-off days have been established in some localities where these containers are collected and mailed in bulk.

The Carton Council provides additional information and addresses for recycling cartons: You must check empty and dry shipping cartons first.

Retain the cap and dispose of any straws in the cardboard containers. You may save room by crushing your containers.

Your cartons should be sent to the correct address. Choose the place that is most convenient for you. Include the correct postage and put “cartons” on the front of your package.

If you don’t want to keep mailing cartons forever, you should ask your city or municipality to consider adding carton recycling to its list of acceptable products.

Make a phone call to the municipal hall and voice your concerns. Additionally, you may sign a petition to support the broader adoption of carton recycling across the country.

Since its inception in 2009, the Carton Council’s campaigning has led to the introduction of recycling in several American communities.


As long as you have curbside recycling for milk and other cartons, you may empty and rinse the container, then place it in the recycling bin.

It is unnecessary to smash the container, mainly because this might slow down the recycling process in some areas.

Check with your local recycler about whether or not you should include plastic caps and straws in your recycling (the Carton Council advises this practice).

How to Reuse and Recycle Old Milk Cartons in Innovative Ways

Reducing waste doesn’t have to be limited to recycling. You don’t have to throw away your old cartons; you can re-use them. Because of this, they don’t wind up in a recycling bin.

Other than that, it avoids contamination of other recyclables and prevents mix-ups. You may use craft projects for various home functions, so tap into your creative side.

You may make new goods from empty milk cartons, such as the following:


You may use the gable-top cartons to store a wide variety of dry goods that you want to pour out readily.

A spoonful of white sugar, sprinkles, rice, sunflower seeds, or anything tiny enough to “pour out” will suffice.

Many of these containers include a spout on the plastic top that you may use instead of the tabletop.

To make a matching set or to describe what’s inside, you can paint and mark your boxes however you choose.

It is possible to transform milk cartons into attractive containers for art supplies or gift packing by cutting and decorating them.

Build a Bird Feeder

The discarded milk cartons may be reused as bird feeders. Using a hot glue gun, connect some seed or corn kernels to the interior of the carton after cutting it in half and leaving the top and bottom exposed.

Submerge the seeds in water and then cover them with pebbles to keep them hidden from view during feeding time.

Birds will love to eat this if you hang it from a branch in a nearby tree.

Create Planters

Because they are already water-resistant and easy to cut, cartons make excellent planters, especially for beginners.

It’s entirely up to you how tall or short you want them to be, and you can even paint the outside if you’d like.

Make Gorgeous Nightlights

You can turn milk and juice cartons into gorgeous nightlights by repurposing them. Cut a hole in the empty milk or juice carton, wrap it in a present attractive wrap, and insert your light bulb.

Wrapping Up

To protect the natural environment, carton recycling is essential. You may recycle milk and drink cartons to reduce waste.

If you’re planning to recycle your milk cartons, wash them well beforehand.

You won’t have to be concerned about contaminating other recyclables when recycling cartons this way.

In addition, you may ingeniously reuse milk cartons to save landfill space.

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