Can I Recycle My Can Carriers? How?

What’s better than grabbing a four-pack of a brand new mead on your way home from work?

You walk up to the cooler, and there it is! Beautiful label, exciting ingredients… you can almost smell the honey. While you’re here, you might as well grab a sixer of cider and another four-pack from your favorite brewery.

Now that you’re home and praised by your spouse for your wise use of funds, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! The mead goes into your favorite tankard, the can goes into the recycling where it will enjoy untold renewals through the wonders of aluminum’s nearly unlimited recyclability, but what about that four-pack holder?

(You know. These things)

Whether you call them carriers, PakTechs, or don’t have a name for them, you know what we’re talking about. It’s that nearly ubiquitous flat plastic holder on the top of your cans.

So where does it go when you're done with it? And, for that matter, where did it come from?

Almost all carriers are made by the PakTech company out of Eugene, Oregon. They are made out of 100% recycled HDPE and are 100% recyclable (sort of, more on that in a minute). PakTech is incredibly devoted to environmental sustainability and they offer a special recycling program. They estimate that nearly 100 million pounds of plastic has already been kept out of landfills through their efforts. This is a pretty big deal and they’ve received numerous national and international awards for their efforts.

So what’s up with that special recycling program? The problem with recycling carriers is that ZeroSort recycling facilities simply aren’t set up to deal with them. A product is only 100% recyclable if it gets to the people who can recycle it.

When you toss that can carrier into the recycling bin in your home, chances are very good that it ends up in a landfill. This isn’t malicious, it has to do with the sorting methods used by ZeroSort recycling which are complex, but simply don’t know what to do with carriers. Whether they end up blown into the cardboard and paper section due to their light weight, or get rejected because the optical sorter can’t make sense of the dark plastic, or simply jam into a sorting wheel, they’re a big problem for your local municipality. BrewView did a great piece on those issues if you’d like to read more.

So why doesn’t every store have a PakTech recycling bin? The logistics of getting all of the carriers back to Oregon has proved a major hurdle for carrier recycling throughout the US. The cost of adding the infrastructure to municipal facilities is simply too great. We drink a lot in Vermont, but not enough to justify it.

So what’s a consumer to do?

Up until recently, there wasn’t much, but a group of brewers in Vermont have come up with a brilliant solution that is even better than recycling!

We are proud to announce that we’re part of the Can Carrier Reuse Program!

Started as a collaboration between Reusable Solutions Co., Casella Waste Systems, and Eco Friendly Beer, Vermont retailers and brewers are now able to collect our carriers and get them into the hands of startup and small producers!

We have an amazing machine that pops PakTechs onto our cans as they come through the line. It can handle about 140 cans per minute and has been a total game changer, because we used to do them all by hand!

That’s right: a can per second would come through the line, and we would flip each one over, pop it in a carrier, and slide it down to the next station.

Here’s a video from the olden days before we moved up to Saint Albans.

This is exactly the process that many smaller brewers still use and while our machine can’t reuse carriers, these folks can!

Dozens of shops and brewers throughout the state have come together to collect all of our carriers as well as accept carriers from our customers so that we can send them over to folks who need them!

What an amazing system! Think about how many problems this fixes!

  1. Reuse is almost always better than recycling.
  2. This represents a huge cost savings for startups since carriers represent a significant portion of the cost of packaging.
  3. Customers know exactly what happens to their packaging after they drop it off.
  4. No more carriers in the landfill!
  5. Brewers no longer need to collect carriers for months (or years) to build up a big enough supply to justify shipping them back to Oregon.
  6. Even if the carriers are damaged and can’t be reused, they are kept out of the waste stream and go in bulk to an HDPE recycling facility.

We’re so excited to be part of this program and incredibly thankful to the folks who put it together.

In many ways, this epitomizes being a brewer in Vermont: Everyone coming together to help each other and the planet. To find out how you can help, or to sign up, you can reach out to us directly, or contact the folks at Reusable Solutions.

Great, so you'll take them?

Since we are not currently open to the public, you will want to bring those pesky carriers to some of our local brewing brethren to recycle. Per BrewBound and VermontBiz, these include (as of April 2022):

Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier
Stowe Public House & Bottle Shop
Craft Beer Cellar in Waterbury
City Market stores in Burlington
Meuleman’s Craft Draughts in Rawsonville
Jake’s Market locations in Burlington and Quechee
14th Star Brewing in St. Albans
Foam Brewers
Switchback Brewing and Zero Gravity in Burlington
Halyard Brewing in South Burlington
Four Quarters Brewing in Winookski
The Beverage Warehouse in Winooski
Goodwater Brewery in Williston
Black Flannel Brewing & Distilling in Essex
Stone Corral Brewery in Richmond
Green Empire Brewing in Colchester
Shacksbury Cider in Vergennes.

You can also recycle them at PakTech recycling locations nationwide! Click here and find one near you!

Retailers and breweries interested in joining the expanded statewide effort should contact

Once we are back open and doing events again, we will be delighted to take them off your hands.

If you’re not based in Vermont, but would like a program like this in your state, please use either of the contact forms above. We’d love to see this go nationwide!

For more about how we can now, you can check out this video. It’s still not up-to-date since we’ve replaced a bunch of the machines (including the one that puts on the carriers), but you can see what a game changer it is!

Or for a more modern look at our machinery, check out this video of our canning machine breaking company records for speed:


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