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L.A. adds milk, juice, soup cartons to curbside recycling program

June 13, 2011 |  4:21 pm

CartonLos Angeles is expanding its efforts to be the recycling-est city in the country. Starting Tuesday, residents can throw milk, juice, soup and wine cartons into their blue bins. The inclusion of cartons in L.A.'s curbside recycling program could divert as much as 430 tons of waste from landfills.

New York, Chicago and Philadelphia already have carton recycling programs, as do almost 200 other California cities, including Oakland, Sacramento and Long Beach.

"This is a big deal in the sense that we’ll be the largest city in the state that has a carton recycling program," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "It solidifies our position as the No. 1 recycling city in the nation."

In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, L.A. recycled 211,300 tons of waste through its curbside program. L.A. currently diverts 65% of the 10.1 million tons of trash it generates annually –- more than any other large city in the United States.

"We’ll be at 70% by the time I leave office," in 2013, Villaraigosa said. "That’s our goal. We want to be a zero waste city one day, and although that’s a high threshold, every year we’re working toward that.

"Since 2007, L.A. has added 440,000 multifamily households to the city’s recycling program. Seventy-five percent of multifamily households, and 78% of LAUSD campuses, now have curbside recycling.

"We need to take that to 100%," the mayor said. "L.A. has the ignominious distinction of having some of the worst air quality in the nation. We have some of the worst traffic. We’ve got to make a greener city, and conservation of our resources is critical. People don’t want to live next to waste dumps."

The cartons that can now be recycled curbside in L.A. are typically used for milk, juice, soup, broth, soy and other nut milks and wine. There are two types of cartons. One is made from paperboard coated with plastic and is usually used for chilled drinks such as milk or juice. The other is made from paperboard, plastic and foil, and is used to keep liquid foods (such as soup) and beverages (including soy mik) stable without refrigeration.

Carton recycling takes place at paper mills, which separate the paper pulp from the plastic and foil. The paper pulp is typically used for products such as bathroom tissue. The leftover plastics and foil are often used to generate electricity or turned into extruded plastic products, such as lumber.

"The carton is very much a recyclable commodity globally," said Jeff Fielkow, vice president of recycling for the Carton Council.

One in three U.S. households currently has access to carton recycling. In 1994, just one in 25 households could recycle cartons, according to the Carton Council, a coalition of carton manufacturers that set up the carton recycling program with the city of L.A.

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Examples of cartons that are now accepted in L.A.'s curbside recycling program. Credit: The Carton Council