Adding cartons to the mix

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2016

It might seem a little odd to get excited about milk cartons, but area officials were justifiably excited to announce recently that milk cartons — along with juice cartons and cartons of soup and other items that can be kept on the pantry shelf — are now recyclable.

“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 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.

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Adding cartons to the recyclables mix required major alterations to the TFC facility, it required finding a market where they could be sold, and it took planning for how to get the word out about the change.

The last step, at least, might prove to be relatively simple, as many people thought the cardboard cartons already could be recycled. The change means that TFC employees will no longer have to remove them from the automated recycling stream.

In their recycled state, the cartons will be used to make pulp, which ultimately will become new cartons, tissues, paper towels and other products.

The change will be a big deal at the regional landfill, whose life span is directly affected by the amount of trash that winds up there. And a landfill that lasts longer will be a huge benefit for the people of Suffolk.