Next time you empty out your milk carton and trash it in the bin, think twice. You may want to keep it aside for recycling. While milk is beneficial for health, the empty milk carton too has its uses. Once recycled, milk cartons can be fabricated using a European technology, into building and construction material from the polyethylene coating they contain.
Products that can be created by processing poly-coated products (cartons) into recycled wall boards, tile backers, sheathing, and decorative panels. These can be used for both on wet and dry surfaces.
Recycling messaging on milk cartons, is a starting point
These are Green Building Materials made of completely recyclable paper or cartons. In fact, most major milk brands encourage consumers to ‘Please Recycle’, by printing their plea on the side of the cartons.
While discarding milk cartons for recycling, one must keep three simple steps in mind. 1) Empty cartons, should be segregated for the recycling bin for further collection by your housekeeping staff or municipal workers. 2) The cartons being trashed don’t need to be rinsed. The cap (in case there is one) needs to be kept on, and a straw need to be pushed inside the carton before trashing. 3) The carton, importantly must not be crushed.
It’s not asking for much, but we are giving back responsibly to society- our contribution towards creating 100% green building materials. By taking these simple actions, one can become an “aspirational recycler” or “wish-cycler,” which is a term I stumbled upon while researching on the subject. These are terms coined to describe someone who tosses items into a recycling bin “hoping” it can be recycled.
Thousands of tons of polyethylene coated paper cartons are recycled into water resistant eco-friendly building material. These have multiple uses as both building exterior and interior products. Green building materials can be used for floors, countertops and tiles’ substrate to wall boards, roof sheathing and decorative panels.
The infographic appended gives a fine illustration of this.
The cartons are processed and formed into flat bread-like sheets of paper pulp, ready to be made into recycled paper products or building materials. (Pic on right)
What’s more, these recycled finished products are not only moisture resistant, but mould resistant too. This is due to the cartons’ polyethylene coating, (present in 20% of a typical milk carton).
An AI based US company ReWall using a proprietary European technology, is able to process the final recycled moisture-resistant paperboard sheets, of a high quality, that is hugely advantageous for building and construction applications.
These eco-friendly products are additionally, acoustic and mechanical sound (or sound-proofing), VOC-free (volatile organic compounds) material, and offers an ideal alternative to conventional plyboard (which are often made with virgin wood). On account of the above, these recycled products are beneficial for health and wellbeing of the occupant of the space in consideration.
Furthermore, ReWall’s paperboard sheet-making process utilizes 86% less energy, compared to the mainstream gypsum/drywall manufacturing process, making the former, a truly ‘Green Building Material’.
The final recycled tile from milk cartons bears evidence of its origins. Flecked with print obtained directly from the beverage containers.100% recycled.
Using recycled beverage cartons, make 100% upcycled, high-performance materials. These include roof cover boards, exterior sheathing, interior wall board and ceiling tiles.
Instead of downcycling by reducing the cartons to pulp, a process that requires excessive use of water and energy, upcycling cartons on the other hand cause minimal environmental impact in their most pure form, with zero water* and minimal energy usage.
Recycled finished products that are unique in appearance, eco-friendly and economical, and at the same time, durable
The future use of recycled material has many possibilities and some of them are mentioned herein. For instance, food outlets and takeaways can build their stores area from their own cup waste. Ceilings and tiles for offices, school / canteens, restaurants can be installed with tiles made from their beverage cartons. Similarly, cities can utilize their waste and create boards for buildings, especially vacant buildings or under-construction ones. A novel way to communicate for Companies when they install branded wallboards with their logos, livery and messaging, that can be pre-ordered and come pre-finished – these walls are versatile being washable and printable, too.
Companies engaging in the recycling of beverage cartons and paper to make building materials, parallelly take care of landfill reduction. So, when more volumes are taken up for upcycling, this will lead to a reduction in trash volumes that are dumped in landfills. For volumes of recycled building material to rise, there first needs to be a surge in demand and appreciation for the finished product, both for commercial and domestic use.
First things first, we need to be aware and create awareness about recycling everyday items like milk and beverage cartons and other such items, its purpose and the impact our responsible actions may have in the community and society at large.
To drive home the point on landfill reduction, it takes the company ReWall, approximately 30 cartons to make a single 2’x2’ ceiling tile; and 400 cartons go in to bring out one piece of 8’ x 4’ x ½ ‘’ board. This translates to a whopping 300,000 cartons avoiding the landfill, and making it to the processing plant for to fabricate a truckload of their recycled product!
Go Ahead! Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. We hear we have only a few years left to reverse the harmful and devastating impact of climate change.
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