Recycling Cartons: Myths vs Facts

Recycling Cartons: Myths vs Facts

We heard you loud and clear. You’re recycling your food and beverage cartons but your friends and neighbors are not. We’re here to help! Use the cheat sheet below to bust myths and convert them into recycling heroes.

  • Fact: Cartons are mainly made from paper. What someone may think of as “wax” on a carton is actually a thin layer of plastic.
  • Fact: Cartons can be recycled into new products such as paper towels, tissues and printing and writing paper. Also, the aluminum and plastic can be used to generate energy or become binding. In other cases, the entire carton can be recycled into building materials, like wallboard and roof cover board.
  • Fact: Not crushing your cartons helps the MRF operators sort cartons efficiently. The equipment confuses flat cartons with paper causing cartons to be sorted wrong.
  • Fact: Plastic bags can jam up equipment at recycling centers, slowing everything down and preventing recyclables from getting recycled. Instead, place materials in a recycling bin.
  • Fact: What can and can’t be recycled varies by community and depends on the recycling facility where the materials go. Cartons are widely accepted for recycling across Canada. For more information, visit the Carton Council’s web site.

Reflecting on Waste Reduction Week

Reflecting on Waste Reduction Week

This week across Canada individuals, organizations and businesses will consider how and what they contribute to their nations’ waste reduction efforts.

The scope of Waste Reduction Week includes a very broad range of local and regional events, awareness campaigns, and education programs covering an exhaustive list of audiences — from school children to CEOs.

It’s hard to know how many individuals will be reached through these initiatives or how many of those will actually step-up and make a change that will make a difference.

I’m an optimist

My experience within the waste management sector over the last twelve years has shown me that people genuinely care about the environment; the waste they create at work and at home; and the steps they can take to reduce their environmental footprint. Thousands of Canadians whose jobs are linked to the sector can testify to the effectiveness of recycling messages and changes in public attitudes towards waste as recycling programs, facilities and opportunities have grown.

At an industry level, it’s encouraging to see manufacturers focused on reducing energy and other resources in their processes while also innovating ways to transform their waste into feedstock for other kinds of enterprise. And sectors like packaging are supporting innovation to extend the useful life of their products after their original purpose has been fulfilled.

We’re taking part

The Carton Council of Canada salutes all of the innovators, participants and sponsors engaged in Canada’s Waste Reduction Week 2018. And we’re also proud to partner with SARCAN Recycling in Saskatchewan to sponsor a waste reduction week event at an elementary school in Saskatoon. The event will launch a new website focused on increasing recycling rates of all beverage containers in schools, with a special focus on cartons. SARCAN Recycling provides environmental protection, employment creation and economic development through a province-wide network for recycling beverage containers, paint and electronics in Saskatchewan.

We look forward to participating in this worthwhile event and seeing the results of these investments in the future.

Teach them well…

Teach them well…

There are few social movements that omit children from their list of important audiences. Just ask any parent who has been coached by their child to quit smoking, put their cell phones away at dinner or recycle their empty containers.

Social marketers understand that children are strong influencers in families. They areeager to learn and willing to adopt new ideas and new practices that are consistent with the values they learn at home. As a society we often leverage their enthusiasm to gently shift prevailing social attitudes. The non-smoking movement is a case in point.

Supporting environmental education that’s fun

This summer the Carton Council of Canada (CCC) partnered with the City of Vaughan in Ontario and Quebec-based Reseau Environnement’s Tri-logique program to deliver environmental education programs focused on teaching good recycling practices to children.

The Tri-logique program engaged 36 municipalities with a combined population of 400,000 between May 7 and August 10, an increase of 125% over last year. Under the theme “Sorting, makes sense!”, five outreach officers delivered 59 presentations throughout Quebec, in schools, day camps and at public events.

In Vaughan three libraries hosted a waste diversion basketball activity that attracted 372 participants at 10 events this summer. Response to the game was very positive with one youngster observing: “Now I know what goes where and I can do it at home.” One parent took a picture of the game because he was thinking he’d like to make one for his home.

The CCC provided both programs with support, including promotional banners, as well as stickers and tattoos for participants, adding to the fun and education.

Investing in young Canadians offers the promise that, as they grow and become more fully engaged in our society, they will associate the good practices they adopted as youngsters with positive experiences. And recycling should be one of them.


Keeping consumers on track

Keeping consumers on track

One of our biggest challenges and most important roles has always been educating consumers about how to recycle.

Recycling programs world-wide are in the process of adjusting to the effects China’s stricter regulations for recycled materials has had on global markets. Because contamination is a cost centre for programs already under pressure from current market conditions, we are asking consumers to be more particular about what they put into their blue box and how they prepare it for collection.

Quite recently I became aware of a municipality that removed cartons from the materials accepted in their Blue Box program. They had been instructed to do so by their processor, who thought it was necessary for these common containers to be rinsed by consumers in order to find a recycling home for them. Not so, I explained to both the municipality and their processor. Cartons just need to be emptied before they are collected. With the facts in hand, this municipality will consider including cartons in their program again.

The belief cartons must be rinsed – not just emptied – often comes up in discussions with industry stakeholders. While rinsed cartons make for a more pleasant recycling experience at home and in recycling facilities, it is left-over product that jeopardizes the recyclability of cartons and other containers. The distinction between empty and rinsed and the need to ensure there is no residual product remaining (as opposed to the requirement to rinse the carton) is important to communicate, especially in schools, where rinsing containers is logistically challenging.

Keeping consumers informed of adjustments to local recycling programs is time-consuming and costly. So, it’s important to ensure we share correct information when we communicate with them. Staying in touch with materials brokers and industry associations is one way of ensuring your community and your program are in line with market conditions and that you can achieve the highest value for your efforts.

Has your recycling program changed as a result of China’s National Sword?
We are interested in knowing how you are coping with changes to global recycling markets and the actions you are taking to keep consumers informed. If you’re open to sharing, please complete the very short (two minutes, tops) SurveyMonkey survey here. I’ll share the results in our fall newsletter.

What’s measured gets managed

What’s measured gets managed

It’s an old chestnut of business wisdom, but it may be truer now than ever before.

As China’s National Sword cuts deeply into many of our recycling programs it has become more important to understand the effects of news about our sector on our operating environment.  How do consumers, material recycling facilities, materials buyers and the municipalities that rely on revenue from their collections respond or react to good and bad news about the state of recycling?

Good data, makes for good decisions

Data has always been the cornerstone of the best business decisions and yet, within the recycling sector, data is often delivered in annual bundles. In an “ideal” world, we would be able to access more information from more sources to get a more detailed view of the business environment we are operating within. This includes both ‘capture’ information (i.e. how much material is making it to the recycling bin) and recycling information (i.e. how much of that captured material is making it to an end-market for recycling).

Our recent plans to launch an Ontario-wide digital awareness campaign to encourage recycling of cartons brought this issue to the front of our wish list. It would be wonderful to not only know which of our ads has the best affect, in terms of views and clicks but also in real-world measures like the impact of the campaign on the volume of cartons being recovered through local programs.

Things are looking up

Some Ontario-based developments are encouraging in this sense. The recent launch of Waste Wiki, an online, open access resource that houses data, research and literature pertinent to Canada’s waste management sector, is a step in the right direction.  And the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority’s new registry, which opened July 4th for tires, is expected to feature a robust reporting function on solid waste recovery performance.

And in neighboring Quebec, all participants at an industry-wide consultation on the state of blue box recycling convened by the Minister last May, agreed on the need for more transparency about the quantities of materials collected and where they end up.

Improvements to our sector’s data collection and data sharing would provide industry organizations and other players with better insights into consumer behaviour and also generate momentum in our independent and joint efforts.

What do YOU think?
I would love to hear your thoughts and –with your permission– share them with our colleagues.

World Environment Day: Focus on local action

World Environment Day: Focus on local action

Among the United Nations’ theme days World Environment Day on June 5th is special for encouraging individuals and groups to do something –locally– to take care of the Earth.

We know much needs to be done. In a time of climate change, islands of floating trash in the seas, and pervasive waste around the world, these and other challenges are daunting and difficult to resolve through individual acts.

Yet World Environment Day is a good time to remember how far we have come and how we have contributed to shaping the more environmentally conscious communities we live in today. This acknowledgement is less ‘self-congratulatory’ than motivational because there is so much further to go. By working collaboratively industry, governments, non-government organizations, communities and individuals have made a quantum shift in our relationship to resources we once considered ‘garbage.’

And this must continue.

A nudge from China

The recent change in China’s policy for accepting recyclable materials from outside its borders has shaken up markets for recovered materials. But as we have seen, markets for food and beverage cartons are evolving and growing. Material recycling facilities (MRFs) investing in positive sorting strategies to make a carton-grade are likely to experience these benefits.

As interest and investment in evolving a circular economy in Canada grows, we can look forward to sustainable recycling of cartons and other materials recovered through municipal recycling programs. However, we need to prepare consumers for the changes they need to make to improve the quality of their blue box and the value of the materials therein.

We need to continue efforts to give individuals knowledge that will improve the feedstock arriving at MRFs –ultimately reducing costs and contaminants to capture the value of these resources. For example, greater awareness and consistent behaviour is needed to ensure only the right materials are placed in the blue box and emptied before discarded.

As we acknowledge World Environment Day this month, lets resolve to do more to arm individuals with the knowledge they need to enhance the quality and value of resources recovered through recycling programs.