Carton recycling in Alberta

Milk, juice and dairy alternatives such as soy, almond and coconut milk have become common household staples across North America. However, when it comes to recycling the empty containers, many Canadians seem at a loss for what to do next. For Albertans, the answer is simple; bring them to your local Depot and get your deposit back. Yet over 30% of used milk and juice containers within Alberta are not returned. That’s an astonishing fact considering that 95% of Canadians have access to some form of carton recycling within their community. 

Milk cartons are one of the easiest and most sustainable packages to recycle. The paper fibres that make up the carton come from renewable and responsibly replenished forests. The inside lining is made up of a thin layer of polyethylene plastic and in some cases, aluminum. While all three materials can be re-purposed, the high quality paper pulp is the most desirable for re-manufacturing into new products. 

Within Alberta, cartons are recovered through the beverage container deposit system. Bringing your empty beverage containers to a local Depot allows the cartons to be sorted and sent to a paper mill, where they go through a process called hydropulping. This involves putting the containers into a giant blender-like machine, where they get mixed around with water until all three layers separate. The fibrous pulp pools at the top while the heavier aluminum and plastic sink to the bottom. Once complete, the paper fiber is ready to be used in manufacturing products such as toilet paper, tissues, office supplies and cardboard boxes.

Carton recycling is important not only for reducing waste in our landfills, but for the myriad of useful products that can be made from the re-purposed material. It is not necessary to rinse your cartons, remove the lids, or flatten them before taking them to a Depot, but rinsing does help reduce odours if you plan to store them for any length of time. Recycling your containers is easy and beneficial, if you have any questions regarding what can and cannot be recycled in Alberta, please visit our Recycling 101 page.