Information for End Markets

Turning Food and Beverage Cartons into New Products

The Carton Council recognizes the key role end markets play in building a long-lasting infrastructure for carton recycling. End markets that buy and use cartons to make new products are imperative to the long-term success of carton recycling.

Food and beverage cartons contain some of the highest-quality fiber found in the recycling stream. In 2011, the Paper Stock Industry (PSI) granted a new commodity grade, #52, for aseptic and gable top cartons. This status is only granted when industry demand and commodity value justify it, reinforcing cartons’ value.

Benefits Overview

Why Buy Grade #52
Food & Beverage Cartons

Grade #52 delivers value to recovered fiber mills and manufacturing facilities that produce sustainability building materials.


Grade #52 bales consist only of aseptic and gable top cartons, delivering more consistency and driving efficiency in manufacturing.

Fiber Quality

Food and beverage cartons contain some of the highest quality fiber available in the recycling stream, a benefit to recovered fiber mills and building materials manufacturers alike.

Value Beyond Pulp

The polyethylene and aluminum, or PolyAl, found in cartons plays a key role as an adhesive in the manufacture of building materials. It can also be recovered in the pulping process at a recovered fiber mill.

For Recovered Fiber Mills

Maximize Output with High Quality Grade #52 Fiber

Fiber is separated and extracted in a hydrapulper. This separated pulp is used to make paper products, such as paper towels, tissues, toilet paper and office and other writing paper.

The remaining materials, a combination of aluminum and polyethylene, can be used in several ways. Some mills use or sell the material to generate energy. Other solutions for the materials exist globally and are in development in North America, though in some cases, this goes to landfills.

Active Mill Facilities Using Grade #52 Food and Beverage Cartons

  • Great Lakes Tissue in Michigan
  • Sustana Fiber in Wisconsin
  • Sustana Fiber Levis in Quebec
  • Kimberly-Clark in Mexico

Benefits of the recovered fiber mill process include:

  • Cartons yield high-quality long-bleached fiber
  • Can be used in recycled pulp for many paper-based products
  • Can be recycled into tissue and toweling

Manufacturing Facilities

Give Cartons a Second
Life as Sustainable Building Material

Another type of recycler uses the entire carton–caps and all–to make building materials without water, formaldehyde glues or hazardous chemicals. The cartons are shredded and fused into large sheets with a giant “panini” press. These sheets can be used in roofing, flooring and as wallboard material. The building materials are strong, durable and resistant to hail, mold and moisture.

Two U.S. manufacturing facilities recycle cartons into building materials

  • Continuus Materials in Iowa
  • Kelly Green Products in Connecticut

The benefits of recycling cartons at a full carton recycler include:

  • 100% of the carton is used to make the building materials
  • The fiber provides the strength for the boards
  • Cartons naturally provide superior performance against moisture and mold
  • Carton building material is resistant to hail
  • The polymers melt at a specific temperature and create an adhesive that binds without glues, harsh chemicals, or water