California-based industrial designer Pushan Panda has come up with an interesting concept for recyclable containers for drinks. Called Bruk, it's meant to replace the packaging for beverages that come in mixed plastic/paper containers, like juice boxes and the cartons that resemble little houses.
Why? Because although "Environmentally conscious consumers may think that a paper carton is more sustainable because it uses less plastic than a similar carton made from plastic," Panda writes, "due to their construction the common paper beverage carton is surprisingly difficult to recycle. Conventional paper milk cartons are made using paper sandwiched between two thin layers of plastic, in order to recycle them, the paper and plastic must be separated which requires a special process that is both expensive and not widely available. As a result in the USA only 16% of [those types of] beverage cartons are recycled and only 49% are recycled in the EU."
Panda's Bruk design thus consists of an HDPE, Doi-pack-like sleeve inside a paperboard carton-shaped housing.
"When it's time to recycle it, the consumer simply tears Bruk in half, releasing the HDPE liner so it can be recycled separately from the cardboard. This process is fast, simple and fun. We designed Bruk to be intuitive and inclusive, easy for everyone regardless of physical ability. Bruk is as convenient and easy to use as a conventional carton, but uses less plastic than a plastic carton and is 100% recyclable with conventional equipment unlike paper cartons."
I think the concept is sound, but I am skeptical it would succeed—because of consumers, not the design. The roads of even my rural, supposedly idyllic county are littered with plastic bottles thrown out of the window by passing drivers. If they can't be bothered to take the single step of throwing a PET bottle into a single bin, can we rely on them to take the extra steps required by Bruk? I wish the answer was "yes."