Milk Carton/Tetra Paks Recycling Research


To understand whether milk cartons/tetra packs can be recycled easily. An ideal response would have information surrounding how readily recyclable, and/or widely recycled, they are in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia specifically.

Early Findings

  • We noted that "Tetra Packs" are actually referred to as Tetra Paks, and therefore we modified our search parameters accordingly.
  • There are two kinds of Tetra Paks. One is called "aseptic," and it is basically a rectangular box with folds on the top. This kind of tetra pak is commonly used for nut milks. These do not require refrigeration. The other kind is called the "gable top," which looks like a regular milk carton. These normally require refrigeration.
  • Tetra paks contain at least two layers of polyethylene, and if it's aseptic, a layer of aluminum.
  • Many Tetra Paks do have a recycling symbol, but it usually has caveats attached to it, which can be viewed here.

Australian Findings

  • Australians appear to have a good understanding of recycling: ABS figures report that in 2012 about 94% of households participated in some way in kerbside recycling. State waste authorities also report a consistent increase in the volume of materials recovered for recycling.
  • Many Australians find recycling difficult to understand. In fact, a "Planet Ark survey found that 48% of Aussies struggle to figure out what can and can’t be recycled, and many incorrectly identified materials that could be recycled. Much of this is likely due to the variation in rules in different places, and the extent to which recycling has changed in the 35 years since it began in Australia."
  • In Australia, combination products like Tetra Pak juice cartons are made of more than one material. One tetra pak can consist of cardboard, plastic and foil linings. Because of this, machinery that is specialized is required to separate the product before it can be recycled, and this may not be available in all areas.
  • "Brownes Dairy in Western Australia recently became Australia’s first company to transition its milk carton to the new Tetra Rex paks. The bio-based packaging will be rolled out across 25 products, accounting for about 17.8 million cartons per year."
  • "Tetra Pak cartons are recycled in 49 countries around the world and over 80% of Australians have access to a council recycling collection that accepts them."
  • "Tetra Paks have reached 50% renewable electricity sourced in just two years since making the commitment to go 100% by 2030."
  • "Tetra Paks get recycled into end products like cardboard, egg cartons, paper towels, roofing tiles, plastic crates and furniture. They’re continually working to expand markets for the recycled materials."

Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals

  • Our initial hour of research provided some information on what Tetra Paks actually are and are made of, as well as some Australian insights.
  • The biggest challenge to this research was finding recent statistics and information. While we could find recent sources, the studies cited were usually from 2012-2016. This is because studies like these are expensive and only done every few years. In any additional research that is requested, we will continue to offer these studies when there are no others publicly available.
  • We did not have time in the initial hour to look at either the United Kingdom or the United States, nor did we have time to explore Australia in depth. This will be reflected in our scoping below.
  • Please select one or more of the options provided in the proposed scoping section below

Research proposal:

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