How to Recycle Tetra Paks

An Overview on Recycling Tetra Paks and Juice Boxes

How Tetra Paks are made

Tetra Paks are ubiquitous in our lives, used to carry everything from dairy to juice to food to wine. And just as they’re diverse in their uses, Tetra Paks are also diverse in how they’re made. Unlike milk cartons, which are made mostly of just paper and a little bit of plastic, consider all of the layers that go into producing a single Tetra Pak:

  • Polyethylene plastic layer #1 to protect against moisture from the outside
  • Paper layer to add stiffness and strength
  • Polyethylene plastic layer #2 for adhesion
  •  Aluminum foil layer as a barrier against oxygen, flavor loss, and light (to prevent nutrient loss)
  •  Polyethylene plastic layer #3 for adhesion
  •  Polyethylene plastic layer #4 to seal against leakage of liquid out of container

All of these layers make it possible to fill Tetra Paks with liquids and foods that can be stored without refrigeration for up to one year. But as you can imagine, all of these different layers also make Tetra Pak recycling rather difficult.

How Tetra Pak recycling works

With all of those layers, how do recycling facilities handle Tetra Paks? The process includes pulping the cartons by mixing them with water and adding heat and blending. This breaks down the components into a brown sludge at which point the aluminum and polyethylene components are separated from the paper fiber.

Each of the separate materials is then used to make new products - the cardboard is the main component recycled, and is made into things like egg boxes, paper bags, writing paper, tissue products, and envelopes. The aluminum and plastic are used for making new furniture, for energy generation systems, and other consumer goods. See the whole process in this informative video on Tetra Pak recycling.

But the recycling process starts with you. Though Australia and many European countries have been into recycling juice boxes and other aseptic cartons for years, North American countries are still working out the kinks of Tetra Pak recycling with only 20% of US households with access to Tetra Pak recycling facilities.[1}]ecently, several leading carton makers joined the Carton Council to make it easier for consumers to recycle these food containers.

Whether you live in the US or in Britain, here are the general things you can do to recycle your Tetra Paks:

  • Curbside recycling: Look first for a curbside option by contacting authorities of your community recycling program to see if Tetra Paks can be included in your blue bin. If you’re required to separate the various components of your Tetra Paks from one another, check out this helpful, step-by-step instructable on deconstructing Tetra Paks.
  • Drop off recycling: When curbside recycling isn’t an option, there may be drop-off recycling centers accepting Tetra Paks for recycling. Our recycling database has a wealth of options across the globe.

Reduce consumption of Tetra Pak products

If you’re not able to recycle Tetra Paks in your community, than it’s a really good idea for you to limit how many you consume. Otherwise, you’ll be sending more trash to the landfill than is really necessary. You can do this by looking for packaging that is reusable or recyclable:

  • Look for milk and juice that’s sold in plastic jugs or glass jars
  • Choose canned food over that sold in Tetra Paks
  • Go for glass bottles when buying wine

And of course, speak your mind! Consumers have a lot of influence with corporations, so let Tetra Pak know that you’re avoiding their packaging until they find a way to make recycling available to everyone.



Too good for the garbage can . (n.d.). Retrieved July 16, 2010, from Tetra Pak:

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