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.

curbside bin
retail store
conveyor belt


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.

paper in water


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.


I became a box of tissues!

Wow! Your juice carton can now help dry your tears or blow your nose.

Help spread the word and share what you’ve learned below!

Pick another material to find out what it wants to be…

Butter Tub

cereal box

Cereal Box

aluminum can

Aluminum Can

steel can

Steel Food Can

glass bottle

Glass Bottle