Cartons contain some of the highest-quality virgin fiber in the recycling stream, and reusing those fibers means that we don’t have to deplete precious environmental resources to obtain more.
Collected at curbside, at drop-off centers, and at workplace and school recycling programs.
As they go through the materials recovery facility (MRF), cartons are sorted from other 3-dimensional products by hand or with infrared optical sorters that separate the cartons from other materials.
After they’ve been sorted, cartons are compressed and baled, and then sold to a recycling company or paper mill for recycling.
At the paper mill, cartons are added to a large machine called a Hydrapulper (imagine a giant blender) that uses water to break the cartons down into their component parts. The fiber is separated from the plastic and aluminum.
Alternatively, at a whole carton recycler, cartons are shredded into a million pieces. Then heat is applied and the shredded pieces are pressed back together into large sheets (like a panini press made of shredded cartons!). About 30 cartons can turn into a single 2’x2’ ceiling tile, while roughly 400 cartons make up each wallboard.
Wet slurry pulp is spread onto a cloth or wire web where it is formed paperboard, similar to a three-layer cake.
The residual plastic and aluminum can be sent on for further recycling, and may become ceiling tiles or wallboard, or be used for energy production.
Traveling like a ribbon around drying drums, the paperboard is dried and then wound into rolls that are 100 inches wide and 5 feet in diameter and weigh about 2 tons. It is ready to be shipped for converting into an end product.