Pouches are Not Recyclable in the Bin.
Juice and food pouches are not recyclable in your bin. Pouches consist of layers of different materials laminated together like polyester, aluminum foil, polyethylene, Mylar, paperboard, and more. They also have spouts, caps, or zipping mechanisms made of other types of plastics. When these materials are fused together – they become very difficult to separate, and almost impossible to recycle.
Why are Pouches Used?
Kraft’s Capri Sun juice pouches are a popular example of this, made with bonded layers of aluminum and plastic. Pouches are designed to be used once and then thrown away, and have become the convenient choice for big manufacturers to save on shipping fuel from lightweight packaging, increase production time with high-speed filling, reduce storage space, and increase shelf life without the need for refrigeration. Although these upstream environmental and economic gains are great, the downstream toll equates to zero recyclability, and requires a constant input of energy, water, and other natural resources to continually make replacements. Americans go through over 80 billion pouches a year.
About 2% of pouches are estimated to be collected nationwide for recycling, primarily through a company called TerraCycle where consumers can pay around $100-$300 for a shipping box. The innovative company helps the world’s largest brands “green” their images by grinding the materials down and repurposing into items like tote bags and laptop cases – but the process isn’t cheap. Chopping 10 million pounds of packaging a year into pellets and selling at below-market rates is only possible with stakeholder funding. In fact, brands paid the company $10.5 million in 2020 to sponsor their programs.
What’s the Solution?
For solutions to big problem items like juice pouches, it takes a team effort. Companies across the entire supply chain need to take responsibility for packaging waste to create more recyclable packaging and invest in new recycling technologies to try to combat these problem materials. It’s also up to us as the consumer to stand up and say NO – stop purchasing these single use items and demand packaging that’s reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
Please, keep food and juice pouches out of the recycling bin. Click here information on Terracycle’s mail-in pouch programs.