Recycled-content Corrugated Boxes: Sustainability at What Cost?

Maintaining an end-use focus, what are the limitations for incorporating recycled corrugated into the manufacture of new corrugated boxes?

Jan. 31, 2013 (Packaging World) - There’s no packaging material that holds up a mirror to the multifaceted, splintered era of sustainability better than paper, and no member of that category does it better than recycled-content corrugated boxes.

Well before sustainability gained its prominence, the environmental- friendliness of corrugated boxes was widely acknowledged, given that they are derived from a renewable resource and their strength-to-weight ratio provides product protection along with cost-savings and efficiencies throughout the supply-chain. While no type of packaging is perfect, corrugated boxes, comparatively, are darned close; therefore, the further pursuit of perfection should be done judiciously, lest the end results prove worse than the starting circumstances.

Recycling is a pillar of sustainability and corrugated boxes, being made of paper, indeed, are recyclable. But that doesn’t dismiss considerations regarding what’s to be done with that recycled material. There are a variety of paper products with end uses that justify a recycled content — all the way up to 100%. Maintaining an end-use focus, what are the limitations for incorporating recycled corrugated into the manufacture of new corrugated boxes? The question divides into: should corrugated boxes contain recycled content at all; and, if so, what percent of recycled content is practical?

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SOURCE: Packaging World