Friday, January 31, 2014

Answer: Can I recycle a milk carton in Palo Alto, CA?

Remember that this week's search challenge was about as simple as they come.  I sent out a survey and asked if... 


  1. This is a little late but before I read the answer I did the search challenge. I used the search terms: "palo alto' recycling "milk cartons" The first result I got was the site curbside services City of Palo Alto - The particular section of the site was last updated on Nov. 15 2013. The site appears to be the official site from the city of Palo Alto. I did a control F to find milk cartons specifically. And there it was under the green container section. Since the request was milk cartons and not milk in a bottle or milk in a plastic jug or milk in a "juice box" container this is what I'd go by.

  2. Wow! 215 responces? That's fantastic.

    Changing the subject a little. I try to keep up with comments on each blog post. I try to use the Notify Me checkbox that is in the lower right corner of the comment box, but sometimes I just don't see it (like now). Why do I see it sometimes and not others?

  3. And just to follow up - the Notify me checkbox showed up just after published the comment above. Not sure why it wasn't there to begin with.

  4. It is a very interesting topic and challenge.

    What other things we can do when we find variances of opinion? for example if we can't verify phone number or isn't available.

    Recycling is ambiguous word too. I also found too the links you posted here, and they say no recollection and can be compost. So maybe they talk about different things, right?

    Have an excellent day!

    1. Good question, Ramón. I'll have to write another post about that. The short answer is: Triangulate. Get information from multiple sources and see who's co-citing each other, and what the authorities have to say.

      "Recycling" could also mean "composting," in the sense that both processes recover/reuse the material.

    2. Ramon your point about composting or recycling I think is valid. Initially my answer was "no" because I saw composting being a different process than recycling. I said yes to the green container(compost material), and no to the blue container (recycle material) so I would agree about the ambiguity. But as Dr. Dan indicated they do reuse the material so isn't all composting in fact recycling. When I saw that a milk carton takes five years to decompose I decided to search further. I first checked with the national "we recycle cartons" I wanted to know the process. Interesting when using the interactive map it doesn't recognize Palo Alto as a city that recycles cartons, but if you follow links you eventually do get to the City of Palo Alto & its recycling program. At We Recycle Cartons you can find the process of reusing cartons. Sent to paper mills and mixed with water in a gigantic blender to extract all the paper fibers from the plastic & aluminum. I didn't search further into the process.

      Checking the dates of webpages is an excellent reminder. I think I overlooked this on a couple of URLs. I recall seeing 2009 in a pdf. If you search [milk carton council] you will see that several results show no dates in the snippet. Is there a way to find out the date without opening the webpage and searching through the site? If I use the search tool to restrict to say the past year those without dates get dropped. Does the date of the last update affect the SERP? I know the cached page has been mentioned but these aren't showing up; maybe I need to change my settings?

      I didn't question the type of milk carton and made an assumption. Another good reminder.

  5. a bit more catch-22 for the mix - a talking video head from the city of Palo Alto (a bit dated, 9/12/12) but still active on their current zero/green/where can i stick it? page:
    [be sure to listen to the last few seconds - depends on the type of housing too…wha?]
    not only depends on container material compositional matrix, but also on contents; e.g., soy, almond, pumped,bagged mother's, raw goat, etc.. and even then, there is differentiation between recyclable and compost-able and what color container and container color identification codes for the visually impaired zero waste participant… even after 4.5 hours on the telephonic apparatus and multiple transfers (including one person who suggested I just Google or Yahoo it and get back to them…) I am now more in the dark than ever.
    Have decided to stop drinking/using all milk & milk-like substances and am considering moving to Fukushima - I hear they send much of their waste stream to the West Coast anyway… shhhsh - all I wanted to do was a simple act that made me think I wasn't totally violating Momma Gaia and I'm sent to search purgatory… and now my computing device is acting like it wants to enter the waste stream - must search inverters/motherboards/battery warrenties… hope they aren't made with composi… damn.

  6. I'm late to the game but here is my take on the answer:

    If you are a resident of a single-family home, milk cartons made of paper cannot be placed in the recyclable (blue) container.
    Paper milk cartons can be dropped of at Stanford Recycling Drop Off Center (i used the Recycle Where? search box to find this info)

    If you are a resident of a multi-unit complex then paper milk cartons can be placed in the composting (green) container.

  7. I just made another search.

    [Milk packaging recycling] and [Milk packaging]

    The Carton

    Please recycle Tetra Pak cartons when possible There says: "Check here to see if cartons are recycled in your community.

    We recycle cartons With the zip. Found information:

    Cartons are recyclable through your Curbside Recycling program. Shelf-stable and refrigerated cartons are accepted.

    [Palo Alto Zip]

  8. A follow-up question: The recycle where toolkit -- is it up to date? How would I know if it is?

  9. Daniel -- Debbie G. is right. The guide you linked to for saying "yes" ( does not say you can recycle milk cartons. It says you can compost them (in your green bin).