Are recycling opportunities for cartons really expanding?
In a word, yes. Alpine Waste & Recycling began a carton collection program after Vice President Brent Hildebrand met members of the Carton Council at a Residential Recycling Conference in Chicago in the spring of 2010. The timing was perfect because Hildebrand had been meeting with schools in the Denver area trying to find a source to manage their waste stream of paperboard cartons
Hildebrand has been talking with schools in the Denver area, and he explains that those small pint-size cartons are a big part of school waste streams. “They’ve long been looking for a way to properly dispose of them. When I met with the Carton Council at a recycling conference, we had an answer. It worked out well.”
“When running a business like this, we have to make sure there’s a good end-use for the material we collect for recycling that will not be taken away 6 months down the road. The Carton Council is able to help with the end use for the cartons,” Hildebrand explains. “As a for-profit company, we’re also concerned with the economics of taking on new material for recycling. The Carton Council put that concern to bed.”
Alpine Waste & Recycling had to make only slight changes to their collection processes to accommodate cartons. “Since we had allocated room in our facility for future expansion, we had the capability of implementing carton collection right away. And we were pretty surprised how many cartons were already in our recycling stream because people assumed they were already accepted,” Hildebrand said.
Alpine Waste & Recycling is operating a single-stream process, so customers aren’t required to do anything differently when it comes to curbside recycling of cartons. They can place paperboard milk and juice containers in the same recycling bin.
But the change did require some communication. “We had to inform our partner haulers so they could get the word out to their residential and commercial customers that we now accept cartons for recycling,” Hildebrand said. “We also actively use our recycling website, and we have a group of about 6 professionals in the field talking to school districts and others who might routinely have cartons for recycling.”
The company has seen a substantial increase in the amount of paperboard in the recycling stream since the initiative was announced. As for how to define the value of recycling cartons in the Denver area, Hildebrand said it was probably too soon to quantify. “There are multiple ways of looking at it. One is the waste diversion factor. Taking something away from the landfill is always valuable.”
Hildebrand also sees marketing benefits to offering carton recycling, because a significant and growing number of consumers look for recyclable packaging as part of their product selection process. More and more, consumers and businesses are looking for ways to recycle. “When talking to potential customers, we see access to carton recycling as a reason to choose our company over others that might not offer the option. It also helps us retain accounts. Our customers recognize that they’re working with a company that continues to look for new opportunities to recycle.”