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Aseptic packaging matters.

Once maligned as an environmental hazard and even banned in Maine, aseptic packaging has now been recognized as earth-friendly, receiving the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development.

The prestigious award recognizes the aseptic packaging industry for demonstrating "extended responsibility through a product's life cycle and outstanding contribution to a sustainable future." Vice President Al Gore presented the award to the Aseptic Packaging Council (APC) and two drink box manufacturers, Combibloc, Inc. and Tetra Pak, Inc., in early March.

"We think this brings to closure the problem of aseptic packaging being singled out by some states and allows people to understand what this packaging really is," said APC President Marshall Cohen. "It could open the door to more food processors and manufacturers to look at this packaging for other uses."

The award may help policy makers understand there is more than one answer to the environmental issue, Cohen said. Once they recognize life cycle is an important factor in source reduction, packaging will come out ahead, he adds.

...except in New Jersey

The argument for aseptics apparently doesn't cut it with many New Jersey legislators. It's a small state with a lot of garbage, so restrictive packaging measures are popular among the state's lawmakers, who have recently introduced a bill that would ban multi-layered and aseptic packaging that is not recyclable. Exemptions are made for packaging for which there is no acceptable alternative, and for disposable packaging necessary for health care, safety, sanitation or related research.

In addition, packaging cannot bear a recyclable claim unless the entire package is recyclable, there is an established collection system for it servicing at least 75% of residents, and it is recycled at a rate of at least 65%. Products making recycled-content claims must contain at least 35% post-consumer waste material. The bill also establishes post-consumer content requirements for plastic bags.

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