Cartons now recyclable in Suffolk

Published 9:59 pm Monday, November 21, 2016

Residents in Suffolk and Chesapeake can now recycle food and beverage cartons in their curbside containers.

“It’s always great to add a new item to the stream,” said Michael Benedetto, president and owner of TFC Recycling, which runs the curbside recycling programs in Suffolk and Chesapeake. “Being able to add material to the recycling stream instead of to the waste stream is saving cities money, is saving residents money, is helping the environment.”

The cartons that have been added to the recyclable materials come in two types — shelf-stable, which holds products like soup, broth and wine, and refrigerated, which holds products like milk, juice, cream and egg substitutes.

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The announcement was made last week on America Recycles Day, at the end of a years-long process to get the cartons into the stream of recyclable materials locally.

“When we first talked about adding cartons to the program, it was years ago,” Benedetto said. “We don’t take adding or deleting items to the program lightly.”

The cartons that are now recyclable through TFC Recycling are the type, like those above, that typically contain juice, broth, milk, egg substitute and other liquid food products.

The cartons that are now recyclable through TFC Recycling are the type, like those above, that typically contain juice, broth, milk, egg substitute and other liquid food products.

Ensuring there is a market for the material and making major alterations to TFC’s facility were just two of the steps that had to take place before cartons could be added to the program.

Benedetto said the cartons will be made into pulp, which ultimately would become new cartons, tissues, paper towels and other products.

“We’re happy now that we’re able to recycle these cartons,” Benedetto said.

Plenty of people were under the impression that the cartons were already recyclable, Benedetto said, causing employees and the automated process to have to filter them out and dispose of them. Before this move, TFC Recycling actually worked with local school systems to try to get them to change to plastic milk containers for school lunches, as those would be recyclable. Some tried it but then changed back, Benedetto said.

Consumers can remember whether the new cartons are recyclable with a simple test.

“If it’s a box and containing a liquid, it’s recyclable,” Benedetto said.

The cartons are different from paperboard, such as cereal boxes, which already was recyclable. The simplified version of items recyclable through TFC Recycling is now: “paper, bottles, cans and cartons,” Benedetto said.

The recycling facility in Chesapeake shut down for about five days to have the new processing equipment installed. In the meantime, recyclables were sent to another facility to be processed.

A grant from the Carton Council of North America helped, according to a press release from TFC Recycling.

“Cartons are a highly recyclable packaging choice,” said Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment, for Tetra Pak Cluster Americas. “We are excited to work with TFC to expand recycling in this area. These communities are now part of the 67.7 million households in the U.S. that have access to carton recycling.”

Also last week, TFC announced the company will begin recognizing streets and neighborhoods in the region each month that have recycling participation rates that are 80 percent or higher.

“There are a lot of streets and a lot of residents that do the right thing, and we want to encourage residents to be encouraging their neighbors to make sure they’re putting their recycling containers out, so we’re all contributing to a bigger, greener picture,” Benedetto said.

The first streets in the Green Streets program will be announced in early 2017, when the initiative is formally launched. The program’s goal is to promote environmental awareness and community pride.