Boise-based RecyclePak Collects Milk Cartons, Hot Cups and More for Recycling at Boise Co-op 

click to enlarge RECYCLEPAK
  • RecyclePak
Laura Coleman and her boyfriend, Hayden Woras, both work full-time at Boise Escape, jobs that have nothing to do with recycling. Nevertheless, the two were swept into the zero waste movement last year, riding the wave of waste-awareness that hit Boise following the city's introduction of the Hefty EnergyBag Program, an initiative aimed to pick up the slack left by China's refusal to continue accepting many American recyclables by sending them to Salt Lake City, where they're converted into biofuels.

"My boyfriend and I were taking a look at the waste that we produced and trying to reduce it as much as possible. We were listening to a lot of zero-waste podcasts and food-waste podcasts and things like that, and as a product of that we realized one of the things we had a hard time finding an alternative for were our non-dairy milk [cartons]," Coleman said. "... I hated that I was throwing them away, so I did some research."

click to enlarge RECYCLEPAK
  • RecyclePak
From that frustrated Googling, RecyclePak was born. Coleman came across an organization called the Carton Council, which helps people learn where and how to recycle cartons. When she discovered there were no carton recycling facilities near Boise, she decided to start her own by mailing cartons in to the closest plant that would accept them: Alpine Waste & Recycling in Denver, Colorado. 

"I went on a Facebook group for the Boise Bench and I also went on the North End Facebook group and asked people, 'If I started a carton pickup, and got carton recycling from your house and sent it in, would anybody be interested?'" Coleman said.

They were. Coleman started RecyclePak, a pickup service, in November 2018, retrieving cartons from front porches twice a week. But soon the time commitment of shuttling from house to house—not to mention packing and shipping the cartons, and paying for shipping and gas (a GoFundMe helped offset costs, but didn't cover them completely)—became overwhelming. She needed a new strategy.

click to enlarge RECYCLEPAK
  • RecyclePak
"I reached out to the [North End] Boise Co-op because they pop into my mind when I think of sustainability and recycling. They're very conscious about that kind of stuff. And they were interested in being a drop-off point. We got it all set up, and the bin pretty much fills up every day now," Coleman said.

Coleman is still packing and shipping the cartons herself for now, but she has high hopes for RecyclePak. She's looking to getting nonprofit status for the initiative, and has plans to meet with the City of Boise about incorporating RecyclePak into its citywide recycling program. If that were to happen, she said, shipping the cartons to a facility in Salt Lake City (where the orange bags are also trucked) could help eliminate both shipping costs and excess pollution from transportation.

For now, the bin outside the doors of the Boise Co-op's North End location on 888 W. Fort Street is still the place to drop off recyclables after they've been cleaned and flattened. In addition to milk cartons, RecyclePak can also collect broth and soup cartons, popcorn tubs, hot cups, carton-like takeout containers and more. Check out a full list here
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