Boxed water brands such as Just Water, Flow, and Boxed Water Is Best often market themselves as more sustainable options for on-the-go hydration, but the nature of their packaging prevents them from being recyclable.
According to Fast Company, the paper-based cartons also contain multiple layers of plastic and aluminum, which prevent them from being recycled at most local recycling centers. Although some specialized forms of equipment are capable of handling this kind of recycling, many communities don’t have access to such facilities.
Tetra Pak, one of the companies that produces cartons like these – which are also used for various forms of milk and juice products – has taken steps to ensure that more households have access to carton recycling. According to Fast Company, 62% of households can now recycle cartons, up from 18% a decade ago.
Despite these innovations, the recycling rate of these containers is still only about 16% in the United States.
Although companies like Just Water state that their packaging is 50% more sustainable, Fast Company reports that plastic water bottles might actually be more environmentally friendly, since it’s possible to make completely new bottles out of the recycled ones, creating a closed-loop manufacturing process.
The full Fast Company article is available here.