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Voices / Letters from readers

Who buys products in aseptic containers, anyway?

According to the map on the website of the Carton Council, an industry organization, no recycling programs exist for aseptic cartons in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, or Massachusetts. The organization lists three facilities to which consumers can mail used cartons.

RE: “So simple and so obvious” [Viewpoint, Feb. 13]:

Johanna Gardner’s Viewpoint seems to encourage all of us consumers to decrease demand for plastic products, in the interest of keeping the Earth from drowning in them.

Many of us are diligent about reducing our purchases of nondegradables, and I for one am curious about who buys the tons of Tetra Pak–type aseptic cartons that appear on grocery shelves.

I’d like to do a survey: Do you buy these soups, milks, and juices? What on earth do you do with the cartons when they’re empty?

I have not received an answer from the Brattleboro Food Co-op or the Windham Solid Waste Management District which could justify the purchase, by a consumer or a retailer, of anything packaged this way. These cartons usually are printed with an assurance that they are “recyclable where facilities exist,” apparently salving the manufacturers’ consciences regarding the waste problem with the concept of saving electricity by not requiring refrigeration.

Well, guess what: Facilities don’t exist anywhere near here for the kind of careful separation of four layers of material (paper, metal foil, plastic, and a synthetic coating) that would allow any recyclable matter to be reclaimed from these containers, even if consumers diligently rinsed, bundled, and delivered them.

The last time I checked, via Freecycle, there was equipment in Nebraska — and I haven’t seen anyone shipping cartons there. It’s a high price for the convenience of serving stuff that’s ready-made and kept fresh without preservatives.

Others may know something I don’t, but in my imagination, the only way to avoid adding to mountains of composite — read virtually nonrecyclable and therefore not recycled — packaging is to refrain from purchasing it.

If you can refuse to buy coffee in a single-use container, you ought to bring your own soup bowl to the deli counter, make your own soup, or get something in a metal can for which you can be responsible.

Dire necessity in undeveloped tropics may make aseptic containers welcome on occasion, but they should not be supported here without a practical disposal plan. And yet somebody’s buying and trashing these things by the ton.

What gives, green people?

Jennifer Holan
Westminster West

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J. Holan
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Mar 2019
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J. Holan

Regarding that sidebox--the Carton Council "hopes to bring carton recycling to your community soon"--just what they said 3 years ago. They encourage everyone in the U.S. to mail our empties to Virginia, Nebraska, or California with "proper postage." Do you realize what that adds to the hidden cost of your boxed goods? Not to mention the huge carbon footprint. Out of the hundreds of thousands that get sold each day, how many get mailed in? Where do the others go? Sorry, I'm still exasperated.

 
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Originally published in The Commons issue #501 (Wednesday, March 13, 2019). This story appeared on page D3.

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