The Time for Environmental Action is NOW!

The EFM Notebook

A Commentary on What’s New and Newsworthy

by Susan Holloway | Bio

NOTE: EFM Notebook is best viewed horizontally, when using your phone.                      EFM Notebook Index

Can I Recycle the New Clover Milk Cartons?

15 Apr 2021 1:27 PM | Gayle Marsh (Administrator)

Clover’s new organic milk carton


In today’s post I address a question from a Notebook reader about the new carton that Clover Sonoma dairy is using for their organic milk. 

Wendy asks, “If the new Clover milk carton is made of renewable materials does that mean it can be recycled or composted?”

To address that question, let’s take a look at the new cartons, which Clover rolled out last year.

Like conventional cartons, the new carton is made primarily of paper from trees. Unlike conventional cartons, the paperboard is sandwiched between two strips of liner made from a bioplastic derived from sugar cane. Conventional cartons use plastic liners made from petroleum or natural gas.

The paper and bioplastic used to make the new carton are renewable resources, meaning those that will grow back in the span of a human life. And, compared to conventional cartons, their manufacture results in less emission of greenhouse gases. Plus, they are somewhat better able to biodegrade in soil and compost than are conventional plastics.

Still, cultivation of any crop can negatively affect the environment unless farmers use responsible practices like crop rotation and responsible irrigation, as well as avoiding pesticides and certain fertilizers. 

On balance, bioplastics get a cautious thumbs up in comparison to packaging made from conventional plastics, particularly if these renewable components are farmed sustainably!

What the heck are bioplastics?

Now, let’s turn directly to Wendy’s question!

It seems logical that a product containing all renewable material should be recyclable, or even compostable. Right???

But before you start flinging your Clover cartons enthusiastically into the recycling or compost bin, check your waste processing facility website!

If you live in San Francisco, you can recycle all paper milk and juice cartons as long as they are clean and dry, whether the liners are made from conventional plastic or bioplastic.

But, in Marin it depends on who your waste hauling company is. Residents served by Recology, such as those in Novato, can recycle any clean milk carton.

But, in Marin it depends on who your waste hauling company is. Residents served by Recology, such as those in Novato, can recycle any clean milk carton. But if your waste is handled by Marin Sanitary or the Tamalpais Community Services District (TCSD), you cannot recycle or compost either the conventional or the renewable milk cartons. Check out the Marin Sanitary website:


Where Should You Put the New Clover Milk Cartons? 

Although the Clover milk cartons say “rinse and recycle”, with all products it is important to check with your local recycler to see if they have a market to recycle that item. Unfortunately, we do not have a way to recycle these cartons, so they still must go in the landfill.

Additionally, we cannot compost these cartons either. Although the plastic is “renewable and plant-based”, the resin itself still behaves like conventional plastic and will not break down in the compost.

(excerpt from the Marin Sanitary website)


So, kudos to Clover Sonoma, long an industry leader in terms of animal welfare and environmental protection, for their pioneering development of sustainable packaging.  

But like it or not, we consumers need to do our own research to make we sure we know where the cartons should go when the delicious organic milk is gone! 

Yes, we consumers can be more careful but how about limiting manufacture of these items?

In a future post, I will try to get to the bottom of all this regional variability in terms of what is or is not recyclable. Is there a chance of getting uniform standards for waste disposal before we all go mad? Stay tuned!

And in the meantime, please send me your burning questions about local environmental issues. If I use your question in a post, I will even send you a complimentary EFM water bottle!

That’s it for this installment of the EFM Notebook!

Thanks to Rob Badger and Nita Winter
for sharing Rob’s beautiful image. 
Check out their award-winning book or
visit their website to see more!


Environmental Forum of Marin is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and a United Way of the Bay Area Certified Agency.

© Copyright Environment Forum of Marin 2016

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software