Alberta Dairy Council Milk Container Recycling Program

What Happens to Recycled Milk Containers

See what happens when you Swish ‘n Squish your empty milk containers.

Plastic Milk Jugs

Milk jugs are made from high-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE), which is one of the most versatile plastic resins and most valuable plastics for recycling. In Alberta, there are several plastic recycling facilities that convert scrap milk jugs back into usable plastic.

The used jugs are baled and sent to the recycling facility where they are chipped and washed. The clean chipped plastic is then melted at high temperature and formed into pellets. The pellets are sold to plastic forming plants which use the material to make non-food containers, plastic formed products, furniture and toys.

This plastic is used in the manufacture of such items as:

  • plastic pipe
  • drainage tile
  • flower pots
  • plastic dimensional lumber used to build picnic tables, patio furniture or decks
  • non-food packaging such as plastic detergent bottles and lubricating oil pails

Polycoated Milk Cartons

Milk cartons are made from 'polycoat' - lightweight, high-grade paperboard sandwiched between two thin layers of polyethylene film. The result is a strong, rigid container that effectively maintains the integrity of the product inside.

Polycoat is a high-value material that can be converted into new material using a process known as hydrapulping. A hydrapulper is like an enormous blender, where a combination of heat, water and agitation break down the material to produce raw fibre, or pulp. The pulp is then used to make new paper products such as corrugated medium (the inner layer of corrugated cardboard), linerboard, household tissue products and even fine writing papers. The small amount of residual polyethylene can be screened off for use in other plastic and composite materials.