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Cartons (Tetra Pak, drink cartons)

Find out how to reduce, reuse, recycle and dispose of cartons.


When possible, please choose products sold in easily recyclable packaging.


There are a number of re-use options for cartons on Pinterest.


Drink and food cartons (known as ‘tetrapak’) can be recycled at any Suffolk Recycling Centre the cartons should be squashed first before placing the lid back onto the carton.

If you can’t get to a recycling centre to recycle your cartons, you can recycle the carton lids by placing them in another plastic bottle (e.g. a plastic milk bottle) and putting them in your household recycling bin. Please do not place them separately in your recycling bin as small items get lost in the recycling process and will not be recycled.


If none of these options work for you then cartons should be placed in your rubbish bin.

We are no longer able to accept cartons in your household recycling bin.

This is because:

  • We are unable to remove them mechanically and it is not cost effective to remove them by hand.
  • There is a limited market for cartons as they are a ‘mixed content’ material, making them difficult to recycle.
  • If you can't get to a recycling centre to recycle these the bottle tops can be recycled if you placed these into another container e.g. milk container to recycle these.

We did investigate whether it would be possible to introduce carton banks at other public locations (such as alongside bottle banks at Supermarkets and Village Halls). Unfortunately, this option was very expensive and would not have provided value for money for Suffolk taxpayers.

When was this change introduced?

The Materials Recycling Facility (known as the MRF), where recycling collected from Suffolk households is sorted, underwent a major refurbishment during 2019. This state-of-the-art facility has the latest mechanical and optical sorting equipment with far less reliance on hand-sorting. The refurbishment was necessary because the companies that turn our recyclable items back into new products and packaging are now demanding much higher quality materials from us. This means that cartons can no longer be recycled with paper (as they previously were). As we cannot separate cartons mechanically nor cost effectively remove them by hand, we can no longer accept them in the recycling bin. It is worth noting however that cartons accounted for less than 1% of all the materials delivered to the MRF between 2015 – 2019.

Changes to carton recycling have been communicated online and via social media since 2019. Due to the increasing levels of spoiled recycling, particularly since the start of lockdown, the new (2021) campaign has been launched to remind people of what they can and can’t recycle at home.

Last year the cost to remove and dispose of spoiled recycling was in excess of £1million.