For most Americans, the juice box is a relatively recent innovation. Juice boxes were introduced into the U.S. market in 1980, and quickly gained popularity among parents for their convenience and durability, and for the fact that the contents do not need to be refrigerated, making them ideal for lunch boxes and camping trips. For Europeans, however, the concept has been around much longer, as any American who traveled through Europe during the 1960s or 1970s can attest. Long before the idea of storing milk and other perishable liquids in an unrefrigerated setting, for example, in a pantry instead of in an icebox or refrigerator, gained traction in the United States, Europeans had already been packaging milk in boxes composed of paper, plastic and aluminum, which enabled storage in unrefrigerated areas, while also extending the shelf-life of the contents for longer periods of time. By constructing beverage boxes from paper, polyethylene and aluminum foil, and by shaping them in a rectangular form, they proved both sturdy and stackable, thereby making them more efficient for storage purposes as well as being easy for children to grip. And, the manufacturing process that produces the boxes used for consumable liquids like milk and juice can be made sterile, thereby minimizing the likelihood of bacterial growth, assuming the integrity of the package is assured, as any air that gets in will facilitate the growth of bacteria.
Ruben Rausing, a Swedish businessman, is credited with inventing the manufacturing process for beverage boxes during the 1950s and early 1960s. It took years for Rausing – whose real name was Andersson – to develop the means of storing beverages in an antiseptic environment that would prove easier to store and more user-friendly than traditional glass jars. By 1963, however, he had mastered the concept with the introduction of the Tetra Brick, the box that would be used for storing beverages. Rausing’s Swedish roots enabled European markets to exploit his invention sooner than in the United States, where cultural inhibitions against unrefrigerated milk had to be overcome. His invention revolutionized the food packaging industry, for better or worse. As juice boxes gained in popularity across the United States, the environmental implications of these plastic and aluminum containers became increasingly apparent.
Juice boxes are a modern day convenience first developed in the 1960s. The basic anatomy of a juice box is quite simple:
A juice box is made of liquid packaging board which is usually six layers of paper,polyethylene, and aluminum foil. Paper is used to shape the product and give the box an extra source of strength (Wikipedia, Juicebox)
These extra layers preserve the contents and enable consumers to enjoy the product well after its packaging date. However, the extra layers make it incredibly difficult to recycle the juice boxes.
There are special "hydro-pulping" machines that can mash the boxes up into paper pulp, separate out the plastic and aluminum, and turn it all into lower-quality products, like toilet paper or plastic pellets. However, not many American cities have hydro-pulping machines, so in most places, you can't recycle a juice box even if you want to. (PBS Kids)