20 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Tetra Pak Recycling

Step Down SundaySince tiding up our recycling area, I’ve been looking more at what we can recycle. One point of concern has been Tetra Paks. The official Tetra Pak Recycling website would suggest there are recycling points across the country, but at least in our area the information is very out dated.

I eventually called the council after I was unable to find any of the listed recycling points. Apparently since Tesco took control of the bottle banks in their car parks, the Tetra Pak recycling containers have been removed. This means there are no collection points in our area, and there seem to be none nearby.

There is however an unusual solution. You can save up your used Tetra Paks and post them directly to a recycling centre in Somerset. (This may be slightly misleading – there are no Tetra Pak recycling mills in the UK. Instead the cartons are shipped to Sweden where there are suitable facilities.)

There is also some concern that it isn’t true recycling. Tetra Paks can’t be turned into new Tetra Paks. The Tetra Pak recycling website says the paper fibres are removed and reused while the aluminium and plastic components are combined to create furniture. I have some reservations at taking this information at face value. It’s clear that Tetra Pak are trying to sell the product as environmentally friendly – I’m not sure how interested they are in keeping the information up to date.

Tetra Paks do have some interesting environmental claims. Tetra Paks take less energy to produce than cans. They can also be formed on site, unlike bottle or cans – so a single truck can deliver a roll of nearly a million litre cartons to the factory. Once filled cartons are lighter than cans and thus take less energy to transport, plus they are more space efficient so more can fit on a truck. Finally Tetra Pak UK claims to be carbon neutral company by offsetting the carbon created during travel and by electricity.

So even if the recycling option isn’t ideal, Tetra Paks do appear to save energy across the whole product life cycle. Not to mention, Tetra Paks are nearly impossible to avoid these days. So it seems the best solution is to keep these cartons out of the landfill.
Recycling Bins 
A month or two ago I found a narrow box that would fit neatly between our recycling containers, and since then we've collected 19 cartons. Yesterday we rinsed the containers and then packed them into a bit of old Amazon packaging. Then I printed out the special labels you can find here. (The platypus tells them they can throw the box straight in the shredder.)
Packaged Tetra Paks
Mr Goldfish popped down to the post office, and it cost us £2.16 send them on their way to become something new. We wanted to post things now so we could get an idea of the cost, but next time I think we could wait longer and pack more cartons in the box which will hopefully bring down the postage cost per carton. We may also look at the boxes we're posting them in to see if we can reduce the weight.
Recycling Label

Can you recycle Tetra Paks in your area? Are there other things you wish you could recycle?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.