Tetra Pak’s or Cartons have become a familiar sight when out shopping. They contain juices, milks, chopped tomatoes and so much more. All over the world people are searching for a solution for the massive number of single-use plastics we get through as a society. And many people are wondering if they can reduce their single-use plastic use by switching to buying some products in Tetra Pak’s instead of plastic bottles. Tetra Pak’s have a low carbon footprint as they are light, and they are fully recyclable. However, the qualities that make it a great packaging material are also the qualities that cause issues when trying to recycle them.
Tetra Pak’s are not made of cardboard as they may look but are in fact a mixed material. Made on average of layers of paperboard (70%), aluminium (5%), and polyethylene plastic (25%)! This variety of layers and how they are joined together actually makes Tetra Pak cartons difficult to recycle as each material must be separated. It is possible but as it is a specialised process many Councils, including Cardiff, do not accept them for recycling in your kerbside collection.
Illustration of possible Tetra Pak material structure (credit to Packaging material for Tetra Pak carton packages | Tetra Pak)
To recycle them they must be sent to a specialised recycling facility. Once there they are pulped down with water into a slurry material. The different materials are then separated into fibre and a mixture of polyethylene and aluminium. This all requires specialised equipment.
Can I recycle them in Cardiff?
If you have Tetra Pak cartons, you want to recycle you maybe be wondering if you can. At the Household Waste Recycling Centres in Lamby Way and Bessemer Close there are Tetra Pak recycling banks you can use when you visit the sites. However, we do not currently collect them from green recycling bags (or blue re-usable sacks) that are placed out for weekly collections.
There is a great scheme for Community Recycling Zones in some of our Hubs in Cardiff. These collect a few recyclable materials including Tetra Paks! For their most up to date information and locations follow this link: Community Recycling Zones