Recycling Juice Pouches Into Big Value

what will you do with that juice pouch when you're finished?

what will you do with that juice pouch when you're finished?

Summer is prime time for cool treats and juice pouches. The kids and I are on the go, and snacks and drinks are a must. But the other day, I noticed we were collecting a lot of aluminum juice pouches in our recycling container. Even just one drink per day adds up to a small pile by the end of the week.

My family isn’t alone in our love for convenient, flexible packaged items, but that convenience comes at a cost. No doubt millions of these containers get used each year, but, as best I can figure, upwards of 97% of them aren’t recycled. I understand life gets crazy busy, and sometimes it’s easier to toss prepackaged items into your lunch bag. But we shouldn’t allow the remnants of our purchases to pollute the oceans, litter roadways and forests, and of course, be left in landfills for hundreds of years of come.

The quickly growing flexible packaging market is second only to corrugated cardboard, as shown in a 2012 report by nonprofit group, As You Sow. The lightweight packaging helps extend products’ shelf life, reduce shipping costs and lessens carbon emissions. It’s time we join with zero-waste champions, TerraCycle and As You Sow, to demand major brands use “closed loop” production models and start conserving natural resources.

Fun Fact: It takes about 4,000 juice pouches to make a large park bench.

How Industry Leaders Are Recycling Juice Pouches

Although the strategy to raise public awareness and engagement varies among companies, our solid waste recycling problem can’t be ignored any longer. New Jersey-based TerraCycle began its zero-waste “brigades” in 2008. They specifically partner with major brands to repurpose hard-to-recycle items. To date, they’ve transformed over 234 million juice pouches (about 3 percent) into plastic lumber, park benches, and picnic tables, among other things. You can find out how you can join one of TerraCycle’s recycling brigades by clicking here.

In California, As You Sow is working to reform the flexible packaging industry by buying shares in companies. They then demand changes be made via shareholder votes. The group believes targeting senior management is the key to successfully revamping the industry. Last year the group convinced Colgate-Palmolive to make its packaging for 3 product categories completely recyclable by 2020. And Procter & Gamble agreed that 90 percent of its packaging will be recyclable as well. As You Sow also was involved in getting Keurig Green Mountain’s K-Cups made out of recyclable materials. It seems like we in the green sector will have a lot to cheer about in the near future if big brands keep their promises.

But in the meantime, when you choose to buy aluminum juice pouches also consider recreating something new from the durable, colorful material. Once you have washed and dried your pouches, try making a pencil bag, purse or apron. The possibilities are truly endless.

Would you try making anything from juice pouches? What are some things you’ve made? I’d love to know your tips and tricks to help me get started making my own cool creations.

Photo credit: Gordon at flickr cc

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