NEW YORK (AP) _ The major manufacturers of juice packs agreed Wednesday to back off claims their packages are easy to recycle, settling accusations by 10 states that the companies misled consumers with false ads.

Tetra Pak Inc., Combibloc Inc. and their ad agency Lintas Inc. admitted no wrongdoing. But they agreed to pay a total of $75,000 to the states and will permit state officials to screen future juice-box advertisements for questionable environmental claims.

The settlement was the latest in a string of similar pacts between state officials and large U.S. manufacturers over so-called ''green marketing'' claims.

The multi-layer juice boxes are at the center of a widening debate with environmentalists, who favor packages made of a single material because there are no dissimilar materials to be separated before recycling.

Maine has banned the boxes amid criticism that the most widely available recycling programs cannot accept the packages, which are layered with aluminum, plastic and paper.

Still, the airtight boxes remain popular among consumers because they can preserve liquids for relatively long periods of time, are small enough to fit in childrens' lunchboxes and come equipped with straws for easy consumption.

Wednesday's settlement was prompted by a series of ads the juice-box companies ran last fall in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. ''Drink boxes are as easy to recycle as this page,'' one ad headline read.

Environmentalists and the state officials contended the ads misled consumers into thinking they could easily recycle the boxes in the communities where they read the ads.

''The ads were patently false,'' New York Attorney General Robert Abrams said in an interview. ''Paper recycling is found all over the country. Drink box recycling is found in very limited places.''

The companies have initiated recycling programs in about 200 schools in 12 states, according to the Aseptic Packaging Council, the Washington-based trade group representing the two manufacturers. The group said less than 1 percent of all juice boxes sold were recycled.

A trade group spokesman defended the ads, saying the process for recycling the boxes was a simple one and the 10-state agreement merely called for the companies to clarify where pilot recycling programs were available.

''I could put (the boxes) in my kitchen in a blender on puree and I would have paper fiber,'' said Michael Kehs, the spokesman. ''And unlike newspaper, we don't have to use chemicals to de-ink it.''

Kehs described the $75,000 as a voluntary payment to help defray the states' investigative costs because ''we enjoyed the process in making our case to these gentlemen.''

In another widely reported settlement, Mobil Chemical Co. this summer agreed to pay six states $150,000 for promoting the ability of its Hefty plastic bags to degrade in the presence of sunlight. The states complained that the ingredient promoting the disintegration of the bags was unlikely to be activated in the dark recesses of modern landfills, where most U.S. garbage ends up.

The other states involved in Wednesday's settlement with the juice-box makers were California, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.