Long-life liquid cartons (also known as UHT cartons, aseptic drink boxes, or Tetra Paks) can no longer be recycled anywhere in Tasmania and so, unfortunately, must be disposed in the garbage.
Long-life cartons are made from a combination of cardboard with thin layers of plastic and aluminium stuck together to make a waterproof seal known as poly-al. The combination of these materials prevent leakage, protect the contents, and remove the need for refrigerated transport which is a plus… but…This combination of materials also makes it harder to recycle than ‘pure’ single material items. The quality of the separated materials also tends to be lower than in pure materials (e.g. cartons produce short paper fibres not long fibres which limits how the fibres can be re-used).
There is no long-life carton recycling facility in Australia. Cartons are often mistaken for cardboard at the recycling sorting centres and end up in the cardboard recycling bundles. The cartons are a source of contamination in these bundles.
The major manufacturer of the long-life carton, Tetra Pak, has said this about recycling:
“…our aim is to set up a local recycling solution for beverage cartons in Australia, to help reduce dependency on waste export channels, limit the number of cartons going to landfill and ensure beverage cartons continue to deliver value after use.
Used beverage cartons from container deposit system (CDS) jurisdictions currently remain unaffected because they are clean and are therefore seen as high-quality recycling feedstock. Currently, (these) baled used beverage cartons are shipped to India and Korea for recycling.”
(15 June 2021. Source: https://www.tetrapak.com/en-anz/sustainability/planet/carton-recycling-australia-new-zealand)
Tasmania’s Material Recycling Facilities’ existing equipment and manual sorting techniques are not able to recognise and remove these cartons and bundle them separately (they look too similar to cardboard or glossy paper to be correctly identified on the fast-moving conveyor lines).
Avoid: have a go at making your own plant-based milk or fruit juices, either from scratch or using powdered forms.
Reduce: is there a different brand or similar product that you can substitute, even if occasionally?
Re-use: make the most of a carton before it is disposed, by finding other uses such as seedling-raising pots, bird feeders, drawer organisers, and in children’s craft play activities.
Request positive packaging changes from manufacturers by contacting the Australian Packaging Covenant and asking them to prioritise re-usable, refillable and more sustainable long-life carton packaging.
Download a copy of the poster showing which liquid containers can and can’t be recycled in each region of Tasmania for display at your work, school or home: