What is a carton?

Cartons are a type of packaging for food and beverage products you can purchase at the store. They are easy to recognize and are available in two types—shelf-stable (also known as an aseptic carton) and refrigerated (also known as a gable top carton). Cartons are mainly made from paper in the form of paperboard, as well as thin layers of polyethylene (plastic). The shelf stable ones have also a thin layer of aluminum.

Shelf-stable (aseptic) cartons

Shelf-stable cartons contain on average 74% paper, 22% polyethylene and 4% aluminum. Products in shelf-stable cartons include items such as juice, milk, soy and grain milk, soup and broth and wine.

Refrigerated (gable top) cartons

Refrigerated cartons contain about 80% paper and 20% polyethylene. Products in refrigerated cartons include items such as milk, juice, cream, egg substitutes, soy and grain milk.

Download carton diagrams

Environmental profile of cartons

The Carton Council members are dedicated to environmentally preferable practices throughout the entire life-cycle of a carton package. By producing sustainable and carbon smart products made mainly from a renewable resource; consumers can wisely select cartons as one of the best package choices to meet their food and environmental needs. The life-cycle of a carton is illustrated here:

Carton Facts

  • Cartons are mainly made from paper. The paper in our cartons comes from growing forests where trees are replaced by new ones and biodiversity is maintained. None of the resources used in our cartons come from old growth trees or rainforests.
  • Cartons are light-weight and have a great product to package ratio. If you choose a product in a carton, you are taking home an average of 94% product and only 6% package.
  • Products packaged in cartons are transportation efficient. In general, the same amount of product can be shipped in fewer trucks. Fewer trucks = less fuel = less greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Big or small, recycle them all! Cartons are recyclable