Unsure how to throw out old milk cartons? You're not alone

Officials at Island Waste Management say confusion over how to recycle paper milk cartons continues to cost them time and money.

Milk cartons should be rinsed out and recycled in blue bag number 2

Island Waste Management is reminding Islanders of the proper ways to recycle milk cartons and other items that mistakenly go in the wrong bins or blue bags. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Officials at Island Waste Management say confusion over how to recycle paper milk cartons continues to cost them time and money. 

Heather Myers, disposal manager with Island Waste Management, said the paper cartons are often mistakenly put in blue bag number one or the compost stream. But Myers said milk cartons should be rinsed out and put into blue bag number two.

Blue bag number one is meant for cardboard and paper products, while blue bag number two is designated for metals, plastic, glass, as well as milk and juice cartons. 

Paper bags such as ones sugar come are not recyclable and will remain in the compost stream says IWMC's Heather Myers. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Myers said when milk cartons are put into the wrong blue bag, it takes time to manually sort through those items and put them into the right spot. When they're put into the compost, Myers added, chances are they end up as waste. 

"If they end up in the compost stream, they go through composting process, it does take a long time for them to break down because of plastic lining to keep them moisture proof.

"So they end up getting screened out at the end of the composting process and then they end up going into waste." 

Cardboard products also causing confusion

Myers said anything that comes in a Tetra Pak — whether it is milk, sugar or molasses — should be rinsed out and put into blue bag number two. 

Myers believes the confusion may stem from the early days of recycling, when paper cartons were supposed to go into the compost and that's what people got used to.

She said other items, specifically those made from corrugated cardboard like pizza boxes, are also often mistakenly thrown away. 

"Corrugated cardboard has the two flat layers with the wavy layer in the centre. That is recyclable, even if the pizza box has a little bit of a grease stain on it, as long as the food waste is dumped out of the box and into the compost the box itself…can be recycled," Myers said. 

She said those cardboard products should be bundled and put out to the curb beside blue bags number one and two for collection.

Myers said boxboard, such as cereal or tissue boxes, should go in the compost stream. 

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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown