Aseptics – Good and Bad by Design


Recycle logo
Recycle Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They call me Trash Nazi.  Family and friends gently poke fun at my multiple trash cans, trash can labels suggesting to visitors where to put what, my obsessive behavior, never too proud to pluck something from the trash that shouldn’t be there.  In time, my family fell in line with the new program.  Now, we’re all Nazi’s.  We should get matching T’s.

I compost kitchen and yard waste.  I have a powerful wood chipper (yes, it runs on gas…what’d you expect?).  When the “clean trash” piles up enough, I load it into the van and off to the drop-off center.  I no longer even think about it.  It’s just what I do.

I’m all smiles for my neighbors as they roll their gigantic trash can(s) to the curb every Monday and Thursday as I walk the kids to the bus stop, watching the crows and varmits pick through exposed bags until the collector gets there.   Not me.  Every-so-often, I hand-carry a small one-time-use bag of trash directly to the garbage collector as he approaches the end of my drive.  I smile for him too, wish him good morning, and drop it into the front-loader — he stays in the truck and smiles back.  If I miss him on his run, that’s okay; my trash bag is small enough to drop into the receptacle at the corner gas station.  And it’s not stinky either, so it can sit in my car for a couple of days.

I have no smiles for the $50 trash bill when it comes.  It’s mandatory by local law, so I must pay it whether I use it or not, or risk being fined.  It’s my cost to consume and waste responsibly, I tell myself.  The least they could do is give me curbside recycle pick-up service, but I guess that’s too much to ask of my city.

After a few years, it’s all working like a well-oiled machine.  Except for one nagging little container.

Aseptic Carton (courtesy of Carton Council)

Aseptics.  I have collected nearly a year’s worth hoping to find a “home” that’s not the local landfill.  Believe me, I have tried, and I still have not found one.  These containers are cardboard, but then they’re not.  There’s a bit of plastic and metal that must be separated from the cardboard by a process known as hydrapulping.  Apparently, there aren’t many plants which do this in the US.

Cardboard recyclers don’t like aseptics, I’m told, because they “gum up the works.”  Aseptics are meticulously hand-picked from the floor and sent to (you guessed it) the landfill.   There’s so much confusion about whether aseptics is cardboard or not that at least one state banned them temporarily.

The Carton Council is supposed to be the authority on recycling these containers.  They were no help; in fact, they led me to false information about my local recycler (which was promptly corrected).  Last I checked only 9 states offer aseptic carton recycling in the US.  Pathetic, to say the least.

I attempted to make changes where I could.

Vegetable and chicken broth was an easy change and the first to be eliminated from the pantry.  It’s rare we buy a bird carcass, but when we do, the bones and remains are boiled with some choice veggies to make a gallon of chicken stock for the freezer to be used in later recipes.  (The cost savings of the broth alone, $3/qt, paid for the free-range bird.)

Even juice boxes were an cinch to switch.  Capri Suns (for the kids’ lunch kits) cost just as much and those plastic pouches are collected right there in the cafeteria and sent in for money.  The school makes $0.02 on every recycled pouch turned in.  Done.  No-brainer.

I am down to the coconut, soy, or almond milks.  There is one brand of almond milk that is packaged in #1 plastic (like milk jugs), so I simply chose to pay the extra $0.15 for that brand.  All nut milks can be made at home, I’m told.  The milk is extracted from the meat by a process of soaking then squeezing and straining the liquid, soaking then squeezing, repeat.  From my days in Malaysia, I remember that shaving the meat of the coconut requires a special tool, a lathe.    That’s provided that you can even break into the dang coconut husk in the first place.  Sorry — too much trouble.

I’ve reduced and reused all I can.  I’d love to figure out what to do with these containers.  Consider it a challenge for me — many of you know that I don’t give up very easily.

Happy Earth Day, people!  Be sure to thank your worms today.  They sure do a lot of useful, thankless work.

25 thoughts on “Aseptics – Good and Bad by Design

  1. Wow, this is very impressive and very admirable. I try to do all I can as well by reusing and recycling. Luckily, (I think) NYC recyclables go to a hydrapulping plant so we can just stick our cartons in with the recycling. Although, now I am compelled to find direct evidence that they are recycled and not just sorted out for the landfill.


    1. Pardon the trash-y pun, but keep digging! My friend, Jennifer, at MillitaryZeroWaste does it was better than me. Best to check at the source for just what goes into that “single stream recycling” plant your recycled waste goes to. A friendly call to the plant manager can usually answer your nagging questions in just 5-10 minutes.

      If you want to be disgusted by something other than the animals-for-food industry, read the book Garbology. An eye-opener.


    2. Incidentally, go to YouTube and search that term, single stream recycling. The video that comes up is a good one to watch; one of the few trash things I’ve seen that gives me hope for the future.


  2. In Australia they recycle the aseptic containers. I wish we could learn from them. I do feel guilt every time I throw a container away. I’ve managed to make 2 easy milks at home that don’t require straining. 1/2 C. soaked Cashews to 4 C. water. Blend in a power blender, add a touch of salt or sweetener if desired. I store mine in quart jars in the fridge, but it only keeps for 2 or 3 days. I also make hemp milk, same method as above except I reduce the hemp seeds to 1/4 C.The hemp milk is a bit grassy tasting, but I like it and I suspect that you might too. I’m surprised you don’t have curbside recycling, I do and I feel like I live in a smallish city. That being said I can do much more to reduce my waste and be more mindful. I take out that bin too (though my recycle bin is always more full than my garbage bin). We also have a garden waste bin (since we don’t have a garden of our own) the leaves, grass clippings and so on are taken to a composting center where they then turn around and sell the compost to the community. I pay for all these services. I don’t compost food scraps though and I admit that’s a huge part of the garbage I throw out. Because I don’t garden I don’t know what I’d do with the compost. Time to start thinking about it.


    1. You know what? They recycle them here too. There are fewer than a dozen operations, though nationwide, that many recyclers don’t bother with the shipping cost. It is a hugely energy-intensive process in breaking down these containers into component parts – probably just as much going into putting them together.

      Better to just avoid them altogether, I say.

      I’m eating a lot of my words these days. There really are just better (and probably even cheaper) methods of doing mosts things, it just boils down to time. We are fortunate to have a “traditional” family, in that one brings home the income (him), the other does everything else (me). With this new vegan approach (adding to my veggie garden, volunteering, exercising, blogging), my workload seems to be increasing daily. I’ts hard to ask for a raise when the boss is already giving me all he’s got. LOL

      Compost? For gardeners only? Pishaw again!!! You are the perfect home for a worm farm. You should start a conversation with 222MillionTons, who led me to your blog to begin with. He and his wife tend a worm farm for their kitchen waste…


    1. I can’t believe I didn’t mention a single thing about freezing stinky trash. I should have! It’s one of my responsible trash behaviors that my siblings like to rib me on. Glad you got something from it. Sounds as if Oregano has got it down.


  3. So much for the ‘green’ shelf stable packaging…

    We recycle anything that can be recycled.

    Everything else is either burnt twice a month, or composted, depending on the material.

    We have very little real waste. About a year ago now we had an incident with the morons at the local trash service not picking up our trash, then making us wait until the next week until picking it up. That wasn’t acceptable, so I called them and made them make a special trip to pick it up. This ticked off the trash collectors, and they deposited my empty 85 gallon rollaway bin, upside down, in my marigolds.

    I was not amused. I filed a complaint. They said there was nothing they could do about it. I told them if it happened again, I wasn’t paying my bill to pay for the replacement of the flowers their neanderthals destroyed.

    It happened again the very next week. I haven’t paid my trash ever bill since.

    That’s when we started composting things and recycling everything.

    We found out that we didn’t NEED the trash service. Heck, we didn’t get trash haul away service here until 1997! What did people do for all those years before that? Simple, they had burn barrels to burn the combustibles, and once a year, they had the glass and metal hauled away for a minimal fee.

    My next door neighbor and I do that, just as our parents did, for decades. Screw whatever color-of-law ordinance that some unelected jackwagon passed that says you have to do XYZ.

    My trash bill is apparently well over $700 now. I don’t really know. They send me bills and threats once every 3 months and I ‘recycle’ those too.

    They refuse to pick up my trash until I pay a bill that I don’t feel I owe, and I refuse to pay them until they pick up my trash. So you see, it’s a catch 22.

    It’s one of those little civil disobedience kind of things. I don’t use their freaking trash service, so I’m not going to pay a monthly fee for something I don’t use.

    They can completely and totally kiss my arse. If 1 in 100 people did this, things would change very rapidly.

    We must all be the change we want to see in the world. Sometimes, ye just have to say ‘feck it’.


    1. You are welcome on my porch swing ANY day, Janos. I would love to share some people stories with you…

      I’ve already checked the “non-pay” of my trash pick-up (we put nothing out). It’s a city ordinance enforceable by fine and (if need be) putting a lien on my house, kinda like the tax man. They strongly recommended against it.


      1. You know, I oft wonder these days, what country I’m living in exactly. Doesn’t much seem like the one I was born in… but meh… When your home can be seized to pay for a trash bill, something is seriously wrong in Kansas, gals and guys. Or in this case… Texas.


    1. 100% effort is all that’s required. It starts with a lot of thinking and questioning.

      Just for the morning, ask yourself, “Can I reduce or improve this?” It could be taking a shower (wash cloth or shower puff?), using shampoo and body wash (could I buy bulk and a reusable container?), getting coffee (pack from home in cup or buy disposable version at Starbucks?), or getting groceries (do I really need a bag to carry two things?).

      Literally, it’s rethinking lots of little things that you do every day and improving how you do them. Simple, really, but lots and LOTS of effort.

      Pretty soon, you stop thinking about it and just do it. 🙂


  4. “They” recently changed what was allowed in our recycle bins. Now they take cardboard and the cartons you are talking about. I have no idea what they do with them, but it sounds like you need to make a roadtrip here to put your cartons in our bin. 🙂


    1. I’d love to know where! Shipping would be preferred. I’d even pay the postage (it’ll double for keeping the USPS in business). A road trip with 4 kids is not something I look forward to.


    1. Good for you! Many small people, doing many small things, many, many times over, make really big things happen. Don’t get discouraged. A door in the face only makes me more persistent, like the gnat that makes the bull jump off the cliff.

      My mantra: “I will be a hummingbird.” — Wangaari Mathai


  5. Great post! Everyone should be inspired by your light load of trash. That’s great. It’s a shame you don’t get curbside recycling. We do and it’s great. I guess it helps when the bill comes.


Say something. You know ya wanna.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s