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Celebrating Carton Progress This America Recycles Day

Each year, we look forward to America Recycles Day (ARD), November 15, as an opportunity to celebrate recycling, reflect on the significant progress that’s been made, and commit to working toward an even brighter future. This year, the Carton Council of North America is also particularly proud to be celebrating 10 years of carton recycling.

In the same spirit as ARD, the Carton Council has embraced collaboration and recognized that when it comes to recycling, a rising tide truly lifts all boats. Growing and building an infrastructure for carton recycling was never projected to be done overnight, but the headway made since our formation in 2009 is a testament to the partnership and support of the countless stakeholders we’ve worked with over the last decade. These include public-private collaborations throughout the recycling supply chain, and also result from the dedication of local communities, their residents and their recycling programs.

This ARD and every day, the Carton Council is especially grateful to those who recognize the value in carton recycling. Some carton recycling champion communities include Napa City and Napa County, CA; the City of San Diego and San Diego County, CA; Fort Collins, CO; Brookfield, CT; Central Virginia, which includes 13 localities in the Richmond area; Northern Cook County, IL; Anoka County, MN; Becker County, MN; Minneapolis, MN; and New York, NY.

Hear more from some of the communities about why carton recycling is important to them:

“As product packaging changes, the recycling market needs to adapt to fit growing needs,” said Lydia Campbell, Recycling Program Specialist, Anoka County PHES. “The work that the Carton Council has done accomplishes just that. Cartons are a popular packaging style and incorporating them into curbside recycling programs is an obvious choice. It’s a substantial material stream and our residents are happy that they can participate and keep more resources out of landfills.”

“On America Recycles Day and every day, we hope that the public will rethink waste and reduce, reuse, recycle,” said Nancy Drumheller, Public Affairs Manager, Central Virginia Waste Management Authority (CVWMA). “Carton recycling is important to CVWMA, as food and beverage cartons are accepted in our residential (curbside) recycling and drop-off recycling programs. As a sustainable packaging option, CVWMA does not want to see cartons end up in a landfill. We ask that cartons be emptied, rinsed and the plastic cap placed back on to recycle right. Recycled cartons can be made into new products such as paper towels, tissue, paper, toilet paper, and even ceiling tiles. Spread the word to #recycleyourcartons!”

SWANCC’s 23 member-communities that represent about 800,000 people, have been recycling cartons curbside for years as part of their municipal contract with a private service provider,” said Mary Allen, Recycling and Education Director, SWANCC. “Imagine if they all went to the landfill! It is my observation that carton recycling has increased over the years due to the Carton Council’s efforts to work with MRF operators to build the infrastructure and partner with Agency’s like SWANCC to provide educational materials.”

“New York City Department of Sanitation has a goal to maximize how much can get responsibly recycled,” said Bridget Anderson, Deputy Commissioner of Recycling and Sustainability for the NYC Department of Sanitation. “As part of this effort, New Yorkers have been able to recycle beverage cartons (e.g. milk and juice) and aseptic cartons for shelf-stable food products (e.g. soups and juices) for over 10 years. Our recycling vendor, Sims, is able to find markets for these items, which is what makes this possible. The Carton Council has played a role to build this market.”

With their help, on this ARD, we can proudly share that household access to food and beverage carton recycling is nearly 61%, a remarkable 238% increase since we formed 10 years ago. Carton recycling programs now exist in 49 states, with more than 71 million U.S. homes able to recycle cartons in curbside or drop-off programs. Back in 2009, only 18% of U.S. households had access to carton recycling. Additionally, the curbside carton recycling rate for cartons has risen to about 16%, a 166% increase from just 6% in 2009.

We’ve set an ambitious goal of increasing household access to 75% and raising the carton recycling rate to 25% by 2025. And now that we’re seeing more products than ever packaged in cartons, it’s never been more important to push the ball forward on carton recycling. We have a collective responsibility to ensure the public knows to recycle their cartons, that recycling programs accept them, and that once recycled, they are ultimately kept out of landfills and given a new lease on life as new products. With 10 years in the rearview mirror and a lot of progress still to be made, we’ve got big plans for the future of carton recycling and look forward to hitting new milestones, forging new partnerships, and identifying new opportunities for cartons.