to recycled paperboard packaging can cut costs, demonstrate
environmental leadership and maintain package quality, according
to a new report by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation
entitled Greener Cartons: A Buyers Guide to Recycled-Content
The quality, variety and availability of recycled-content
paperboard have improved dramatically in recent years, said
Bruce Hammond, Alliance paperboard project manager. The best
recycled paperboards now compete head-on with bleached virgin boards
in terms of performance and appearance, but usually cost less.
Paperboard is used to make the folding cartons that package a broad
range of consumer products, from over-the-counter medicines to fast
food, software and cereal. More than half the products on supermarket
shelves are now packaged in recycled paperboard. In addition, the
100% Paperboard Alliance also reports that new market segments,
such as pharmaceuticals, refrigerated foods, electronics and overnight
delivery services, are discovering that recent improvements make
100 percent recycled paperboard a desirable alternative to virgin
Kodak made the switch from virgin to recycled-content paperboard
a decade ago. Todays film cartons contain a minimum
75 percent post-consumer content, and the company has realized significant
cost savings from the changeover, said Kodak senior packaging
engineer Gaylynn Durkin.
Other top brand names that are packaged in recycled-content paperboard
include Warner Bros. videos and DVDs, Excedrin and Celebrex painkillers,
Clairol Natural Instincts and Wella haircolor, UPS and FedEx overnight
shipping envelopes, Duracell batteries, Hewlett-Packard printer
cartridges and Gillette Sensor shaving cartridges.
Innovations in American Marketing
From its start in 1881 at a small mill in Philadelphia, PA, 100
percent recycled paperboard has been one of the key packaging solutions
that make mass branded merchandising possible. Before then, most
products were shipped in bulk and sold from barrels in small neighborhood
stores. The folding carton made with 100 percent recycled paperboard
was a true revolution in product distribution. It allowed manufacturers
to create a wider distribution area and print brand images on their
packaging. One of the first products to take advantage of this was
the American classic, Quaker Oats Oatmealpackaged in 100 percent
In the 1950s, some manufacturers began to use virgin
paperboard, made from new tree fibers for their folding cartons
and 100 percent recycled paperboards market share slowly decreased.
With the first Earth
Day in 1970, a paradigm shift occurred. Americans began paying closer
attention to the environment and more people started recycling efforts
at home and in the office. Consumers were demanding that products
be packaged in recycled materials. This shift focused renewed attention
on the use of 100 percent recycled paperboard.
Paper recycling is no longer a special attitude held by a small
percentage of the population. Rather, as a mainstream consumer behavior
it has become integrated into the daily habits of over 90 percent
of the households in the United States. Today, entire communities
across the country routinely collect paper and paperboard to be
remade into 100 percent recycled paperboard. Surveys indicate that
consumers are becoming more sophisticated recyclers and increasingly
look for the recycling symbol on products. A national mall intercept
survey of 200 shoppers, conducted by Leflein Associates, Inc. in
March 2000 for the 100% Paperboard Alliance, revealed that 75 percent
of consumers want to see the new 100 percent recycled paperboard
symbol on packages, and 59 percent would choose to purchase a product
carrying the new symbol instead of a package without it.
The post-consumer content of the paperboard is what creates
the greatest environmental savings, said Hammond. Companies
have several different types of recycled-content paperboard to choose
from, including paperboards that layer recycled materials between
outer layers of virgin fibers, as well as board made from 100 percent
The Alliance for Environmental Innovation calculates that switching
to only 35 percent post-consumer recycled-content for U.S. medicine
and cosmetic cartons would create the following annual environmental
156,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoidedthe
amount of greenhouse gas pollution from 27,000 cars driven 200 miles
2.6 billion gallons of wastewater avoidedthe discharge
from 27,000 households.
510,000 fewer tons of trees usedthe trees required
to make the copy paper used by 11 million people.
106,000 tons of solid waste avoidedthe trash generated
by 49,000 households.
Continued Solid Growth
The 100% Recycled Paperboard Alliance has introduced three
initiatives in North America to assure our continued leadership
in folding cartons and our critical role in Americas recycling,
notes Lynn Harrelson, managing director of the 100% Recycled Paperboard
Alliance. First, the nations mills have made significant
improvements in the quality and performance of 100 percent recycled
paperboard. Second, the industry has been executing a sophisticated
branding program that includes an updated, distinctive recycling
symbol and makes heroes out of the packaged goods companies that
use it. Third, we are conducting an on-going educational effort
to build consumer awareness of 100 percent recycled paperboard.
Paperboard packaging has become a highly competitive category. Marketers
and packaging engineers choose between 100 percent recycled paperboard
that is made from fibers recovered from used paper products and
virgin paperboard made from new tree fibers.
In 1994, the American Forest and Paper Association joined with the
U.S. Department of Energy to launch Agenda 2020, an innovative,
collaborative research program. Through Agenda 2020, a consortium
of research institutions, industry and national laboratories is
developing new technologies, processes and measurements to manufacture
products more efficiently and cost-effectively while reducing environmental
impacts of operations and maximizing the efficient use and reuse
To meet these objectives, Agenda 2020 identified six technology
focus areas for collaborative research efforts. These six task groups
represent a broad cross section of the forest products industry,
including: Sustainable Forest Management; Environmental Performance;
Energy Performance; Improved Capital Effectiveness; Recycling; and
Sensors and Controls.
Research in the Agenda 2020 recycling area is aimed at reducing
energy usage, improving fiber yield and eliminating stickies contamination.
These activities form the basis to significantly improve and expand
the use of recycled fiber. The targeted research pathways encourage
development toward these goals. A new, top priority research pathway
was also defined to support the development and characterization
of new pressure sensitive adhesives. Break through work is sought
to commercialize removable adhesives that help circumvent high processing
costs associated with stickies.
Significant quality improvements by the 100 percent recycled paperboard
industry have led to the development of competitive, versatile products
that are fueling increased demand. From moisture-resistant refrigerated
food boxes to crisp, smooth pharmaceutical packages printed with
the sharpest type and brightest graphics, the industry has successfully
developed packaging options for the changing needs of the marketplace.
These improvements have given package goods manufacturers new opportunities
to be part of Americas recycling effort while meeting the
quality and performance expectations of their consumers.