Myth: Boxed Water Is Best for the Environment

Water boxed in cartons is the latest environmentalist fad, but it might not even help the planet. 

Cartons are incredibly difficult to recycle. To make a carton hold liquids, the paper must be lined with glued layers of plastic and aluminum. These layers are expensive to separate and most recycled cartons end up being “down-cycled” into insulation and scrap paper. In contrast, plastic water bottles can be recycled into new bottles, playground equipment, and more. 

Many recycling programs don’t accept cartons. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live in an area where cartons cannot be recycled. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency found that it is actually better for the environment to incinerate cartons, rather than recycling them. 

Cartons and water bottles contribute similar amounts of greenhouse gases during production. According to a study from the carton manufacturer TetraPak, lightweight water bottles and cartons have near-identical emission levels during production.

This post is part of a weekly series on environmental myths. You can find more myths here