Image

What PPEC will be Watching in 2022

As the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC) continues to work on achieving its mission to promote the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the Canadian paper packaging industry, we will also be closely monitoring the following key issues in 2022.

Extended Producer Responsibility and Recycling

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach in which a producer – a business that makes or sells obligated materials – is made financially responsible for ensuring their products and packaging are properly managed at the end of their life.

In Canada, EPR recycling programs for residential packaging and printed paper (PPP) are currently legislated in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

While PPEC members have not historically been obligated stewards of these programs – our members typically engage in business-to-business transactions, and do not directly supply finished products to consumer – such recycling programs are critical to our industry, and on behalf of its members, PPEC participates in government discussions related to new or changing recycling regulations.

This year will be busy with changes to existing programs and new government consultations, and PPEC will be closely monitoring:

  • Ontario as the Blue Box program transitions to a full producer responsibility model, regulated in June 2021, which means it is moving to a full 100% operational and financial management model, with implementation beginning July 2023. Under the previous regulation, producers were responsible for funding 50% of program costs; while the new model requires producers to establish and fund a collection and management system to manage Blue Box materials.
  • Alberta introduced the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Amendment Act which will enable the development of EPR regulations for designated categories of materials. The government is currently conducting a stakeholder consultation.
  • New Brunswick amended the Designated Materials Regulation under the Clean Environment Act in October 2021, to establish an EPR program for packaging and paper products. Recycle NB will oversee the PPP program, and under the amended regulation, brand owners are required to register with Recycle NB by February 11, 2022. The program is proposed to begin in the spring of 2023.
  • Nova Scotia introduced The Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, which includes a provision to develop and legislate an EPR program for paper and packaging in Nova Scotia, with new EPR regulations expected to be developed by 2023. A 90-day government consultation is expected to launch in early January.
  • Quebec will begin its transition period to an EPR model for its curbside recycling system in 2022, with implementation by 2025. Companies who already finance the Quebec curbside recycling system will be given control over its the system and its management, in partnership with municipalities. Under the current system, companies finance 100% of the costs of municipal collection services for recyclable materials, without control over system management.
  • Manitoba’s PPP stewardship organization, Multi Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM), submitted the draft Transition Plan to Minister of Conservation and Climate November 2021, outlining how it proposes to transition the current shared responsibility model for the delivery of residential recycling of PPP, to one that is fully operated and financed by industry. It is expected that there will be additional consultations this year.

PPEC is proud that paper-based packaging is highly recyclable across Canada in provincially legislated Blue Box-type programs. Not only do Canadian residents have access to these programs, but they actively recycle their paper-based packaging, allowing PPEC’s paper packaging mill members to maintain high levels of recycled content in Canadian made paper packaging, illustrating our home-grown circular economy where used paper is recycled again and again.

New Forestry Statistics

Sustainable forest management is a fundamental pillar for PPEC and its members and is essential to the Canadian paper-based packaging industry.

While most paper packaging made in Canada is made with recycled content, the paper fibres it was originally made from came from a tree. However, less than half of one per cent of Canadian commercial forests are harvested for paper-based packaging, and every hectare that is harvested must be successfully regenerated.

The State of Canada’s Forests Report, published annually by Natural Resources Canada, is an important resource to PPEC, as it is a source of key data on Canada’s forests and its sustainable management, which we use correct misinformation and dispel myths surrounding the paper-based packaging industry and trees.

The 2021 Annual Report has been delayed due to the pandemic but is expected to be released within the next few months; the scheduling of the tabling date of the report is also dependent on Parliament’s agenda and procedures.

Compostability Initiatives

Of the many environmental-attributes of paper-based packaging, not only is it made from a renewable resource and is easily recyclable and recycled, some types of paper-based packaging can also be composted, where facilities exist.

PPEC monitors composting-related initiatives, and most recently, in December 2021, a few national compost organizations, including the US Composting Council and the Compost Council of Canada, established the International Compost Alliance, a voluntary partnership to advance awareness and understanding of the benefits and use of compost on a global scale.

PPEC is looking forward to learning more about this new partnership and their aim to maximize the recycling of organic wastes and advance the manufacturing of certified, high-quality composts.

In the meantime, PPEC will continue to provide clarity on paper-based packaging that may be both recyclable and/or compostable. For example, in Ontario, paper flour bags can be recycled in the Blue Box program, but if they have some food residue, they can be placed in the Green Bin for composting.

For additional information, the Compost Council of Canada has an interactive map of Canada with information on composting facilities, and any related regulations or guidelines, organized by province and territory.

Carbon and Climate Change

Coming out of the COP26 climate summit, and the federal government’s recent Speech from the Throne and their commitments on taking bolder climate action, PPEC will continue to monitor government and industry climate change initiatives and announcements; as well as stewardship organizations who have begun tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across their recycling activities.

Paper-based packaging is made from a renewable resource and is a sustainable material, one that it is highly recyclable and recycled across Canada. In general, paper can be recycled up to seven times, while corrugated box fibres can be used up to ten times, to make new shipping boxes and other paper-based packaging products. Canadian paper packaging mills average recycled content of domestic Canadian shipments of the three major paper packaging grades is close to 82 percent.

And Canadians play a critical role when they recycle their paper-based packaging, which allows recycled fibres to make their way back to the mill to be remade into new paper packaging products, avoiding GHG emissions that would have resulted if the material ended up in landfill.

Sustainable forest management practices can also help sequester carbon (the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide) as forests act as either carbon sources or carbon sinks: a forest is considered to be a carbon source if it releases more carbon than it absorbs, which can result from old age, fire, or insects; or it’s considered to be a carbon sink if it absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases through photosynthesis. According to Natural Resources Canada, our country’s managed forests have primarily been a carbon sink, but recently there has been a shift and they have become carbon sources, releasing more carbon than storing it, due in large part to wildfires and insect outbreaks, a likely result of a changing climate.

To date, PPEC has not collected data from its members on their carbon emissions, but we are currently conducting preliminary research related to the Canadian paper-based packaging industry, based on available data, and will be sharing that information in future PPEC communications.

Happy Holidays from PPEC and thank you for your support in 2021!

2021 Thank you and holiday greeting from PPEC. Celebrating the environmental sustainability of the packaging industry

Greetings from the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council!

Thank you for supporting PPEC and our mission to promote the Canadian paper-based packaging industry’s environmental sustainability story. Some of the highlights of our work over the past year include:

  • The release of PPEC’s exclusive 2020 Recycled Content Survey, which shows the average recycled content used to make paper-based packaging products in Canada has increased to 82%, an excellent result that shows recycled content is a key component of our industry’s circular economy.
  • Continuing to advocate for fairness in legislated paper packaging recycling and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs across Canada, participating in government consultations, preparing submissions, and monitoring provinces considering new EPR programs.
  • Participating in a successful national media campaign to raise awareness about PPEC and promote the environmental sustainability of our industry.
  • Being featured in the trade publication, Recycling Product News for PPEC’s important commentary about how media articles about paper-based packaging must recognize the environmental attributes of our products.
  • The creation of PPEC’s new infographic to help explain our industry’s a circular economy approach to managing paper-based packaging, which are continually collected and recycled, allowing them to be remade into new paper packaging products again and again.
  • And blog posts about Sustainable Forest ManagementProviding Clarity on The Ottawa Citizen’s Cardboard Recycling Article, and an Ontario Blue Box Update, amongst others.

Looking ahead to 2022, we are hoping to accomplish even more, and will continue to work to promote the environmental sustainability success story of the Canadian paper-based packaging industry.

Thanks again for your support and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season from all of us at PPEC!

PPEC Holiday Closing Dates:

Please note the PPEC Office will be closed December 27, 2021 – January 3, 2022 for the holiday season. The office will reopen on January 4, 2022. 

New Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Announced

On October 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the members of the new Cabinet, following the September 20th election, which saw the Liberals form another minority government. Parliament is slated to return November 22, 2021, at which time the Government of Canada will also deliver a new Throne Speech, which will lay out the government’s plans and priorities.

Steven Guilbeau, new Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Former climate activist Steven Guilbeault has been appointed the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, with former Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson moving to Natural Resources.
Public Affairs group StrategyCorp wrote that “this “Double Green” approach could signal a bad cop/good cop approach to environmental policy and transformation. The COP26 international climate change conference is only days away, with these two choices the Liberals are signaling even greater ambitions on climate action.”

Minister Guilbeault previously co-founded Équiterre, an environmental organization in Quebec, worked as Director and Campaign Manager for Greenpeace, and was a Strategic Advisor at Cycle Capital Management, a private cleantech venture capital firm.

In addition to the above appointments, Bill Blair becomes Minister of Emergency Preparedness, a new portfolio that may include climate adaptation. These three appointments indicate that the Prime Minister is placing a strong focus on environmental issues in Canada.

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, will take place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, 2021. The summit will bring parties together, including Canada, to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Some of the goals of COP26 include: Securing global net zero (a state of balance between emissions and emissions reductions) by mid-century, with countries being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets; and protecting natural habitats by encouraging affected countries to protect and restore ecosystems.

Ahead of the summit, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its latest Emissions Gap Report 2021, which found that many governments have not put in place policies to achieve their GHG reduction goals. The report estimates that even if countries achieve their newest round of near-term climate promises, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, the world would be on track to warm roughly 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, compared with pre-industrial levels. 

The Liberal climate plan has several proposed commitments related to recycling, but they are focused specifically on plastics, such as achieving Zero Plastic Waste by 2030 and Investing in New Plastic Recycling Innovation; in addition to delivering on the federal government’s Climate Commitments, including achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

PPEC is currently conducting research on carbon emission data related to our broader industry, based on available information, and will be sharing that information in a future blog post.

PPEC will continue to monitor the environmental and climate change initiatives of the federal government, as well as Canada’s participation in COP26, and the upcoming federal Throne Speech.

Celebrating Waste Reduction Week and the Circular Economy of Paper-based Packaging

The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC) is pleased to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Waste Reduction Week in Canada, taking place this week.

Waste Reduction Week is an important program focused on the principles of circular economy, resource efficiency, and waste reduction; principles that PPEC and its members strongly support and apply to their daily operations in the production of recyclable paper-based packaging.

Paper is a renewable resource and a highly sustainable material that can be recycled and remade into new paper-based packaging products. In general, paper can be recycled up to seven times, while corrugated box fibres can be used up to ten times to make new shipping boxes and other paper-based packaging products.

Canada recycles almost 70% of its paper and cardboard, making it among the top paper recycling countries. And looking at corrugated boxes in particular – which have seen an increase in demand due to the pandemic and a rise in e-commerce – the national recycling rate for corrugated boxes is estimated by PPEC to be at least 85%, while Ontario has a 98% recovery rate for corrugated cardboard.

Keeping these materials in the recycling stream allows PPEC member mills to primarily use recycled fibres in their products. Recycled content is a key component of the Canadian paper-based packaging industry’s circular economy, keeping raw materials flowing for longer, reducing waste, and allowing them to be remade into new paper packaging products by PPEC member mills.

Circular Economy Chart for Waste Reduction Week

PPEC’s 2020 Recycled Content Survey of Canadian mills found that the average recycled content of domestic Canadian shipments of the three major paper packaging grades – containerboard (used to make corrugated boxes), boxboard (used to make boxboard cartons), and kraft paper (used to make paper bags) – is collectively 81.7%, up from 73.5% in 2018, and up from up from 47% back in 1990 when PPEC first began collecting this data.

And consumers play a critical role in the paper-based packaging industry’s circular economy through their important act of recycling. The majority of Canadians (94%) have access to recycling programs – and not only do they have access – they actively and regularly recycle their paper-based packaging, allowing those recycled fibres to make their way back to the mill to be remade into new paper packaging products again and again.

Waste Reduction Week - paper-based packaging materials are recyclable

And while most paper-based packaging made in Canada is made with recycled content, the paper fibres it was originally made from came from a tree. That’s why resource protection and sustainable forest management is critical to the operations of PPEC members and the Canadian paper-based packaging industry. All PPEC-member mills have independent, third-party certification that verifies that their paper fibre sources – recycled fibre, wood chips, and sawmill residues – are responsibly sourced. And while less than half of one per cent of Canadian commercial forests are harvested for paper-based packaging, every hectare that is harvested must be successfully regenerated; in 2018, at least 427 million seedlings were planted across Canada. When you add it up, the Canadian paper-based packaging industry hardly uses any freshly cut trees to make paper packaging, and the little that is harvested, 0.2% in 2018, is successfully regenerated.

When we use paper-based packaging, we all play a part in the circular economy of the paper-based packaging industry. Learn more the environmental sustainability of paper-based packaging by visiting PPEC’s website and follow us on social media on Twitter and LinkedIn. And to learn more about Waste Reduction Week visit https://wrwcanada.com/en.

Sustainable Forest Management is Essential to the Canadian Paper-Based Packaging Industry

Sustainable forest management is a fundamental pillar for PPEC and its members and is essential to the Canadian paper-based packaging industry. And what better time to talk about that then during National Forest Week, which is taking place this week.

While most paper packaging made in Canada is made with recycled content, the paper fibres it was originally made from came from a tree. However, less than half of one per cent of Canadian commercial forests are harvested for paper-based packaging, and every hectare that is harvested must be successfully regenerated. According to Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) most recent State of Canada’s Forests annual report, at least 427 million seedlings were planted across Canada in 2018 – that’s 48,744 seedlings planted every hour.

In addition, all PPEC-member mills have independent, third-party certification that verifies that their paper fibre sources – which include recycled fibres, wood chips, and sawmill residues – are responsibly sourced. Each mill member has independent chain-of-custody certification for their operations in Canada by one of the three federally-recognised forest certification systems: the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI); the CSA and SFI systems are endorsed by the international umbrella organization called the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).

These third-party forest management certification organizations assess forestry operations against standards for sustainable forest management, which includes ensuring the conservation of biodiversity (the wide array of ecosystems, ecological processes, and different species of plants and animals), and complements Canada’s rigorous forest management laws and regulations.

When you add it up, the Canadian paper-based packaging industry hardly uses any freshly cut trees to make paper packaging, and the little that is harvested, 0.2% in 2018 according to NRCan, is successfully regenerated.

So how are paper-based packaging products made in Canada? Primarily from recycled content! According to PPEC’s most recent Recycled Content Survey, the average recycled content of the three major paper packaging grades made by Canadian mills – containerboard (used to make corrugated boxes), boxboard (used to make boxboard cartons), and kraft paper (used to make paper bags) – is collectively 81.7%. The remaining 18% is made up of wood chips, shavings, or sawmill residue left over from lumber operations, and trees.

Recycled content is a critical component to the paper-based packaging industry’s circular economy. As Canadians actively recycle their paper-based packaging, that recycled content makes its way back to the mill, and is remade into new paper packaging products again and again.

And yet while we know that the paper-based packaging made by PPEC members is made primarily from recycled paper fibres, there is some confusion about our industry and deforestation (when forest land is permanently cleared to make way for a new, non-forest land use).

The most recent data available from NRCan reports that 34,257 hectares of Canada’s total forest area (346,964,664) was permanently converted to other land uses, representing a less than 0.01% deforestation rate.

Deforestation Facts

The forestry sector’s (which includes pulp and paper manufacturing and the wood product manufacturing subsectors) share of deforestation represents 1,494 hectares, or approximately 0.0004% of total deforestation in Canada.

And given that our industry doesn’t use much in the way of freshly cut trees, the little that is harvested – that 0.2% – must be successfully regenerated, making packaging’s share of deforestation zero.

The main causes of deforestation are by the Mining, oil and gas, Agriculture, and Built-up (industrial, institutional or commercial developments, municipal urban development, recreation, and transportation) sectors, who together represent 94% of Canada’s deforestation rate.

But we know it’s important to monitor deforestation, as forest loss affects biodiversity, soil, air and water quality, and wildlife habitat. And forests are a vital part of the carbon cycle, storing and releasing carbon during the process growth, decay, disturbance and renewal: “Over the past four decades, forests have moderated climate change by absorbing about one-quarter of the carbon emitted by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the changing of land uses,” according to NRCan.

Sustainable forest management practices can help sequester carbon (the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide) with forests acting as either carbon sources or carbon sinks: a forest is considered to be a carbon source if it releases more carbon than it absorbs, which can result from old age, fire, or insects; or it’s considered to be a carbon sink if it absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases through photosynthesis.

According to NRCan, Canada’s managed forests have primarily been a carbon sink, but recently there has been a shift and they have become carbon sources, releasing more carbon than storing it, due in large part to wildfires and insect outbreaks, a likely result of a changing climate.

This year’s National Forest Week’s theme is “Our forests – continually giving,” and the Canadian Institute of Forestry has a number of resources to learn more about the value of forests and the importance of protecting and conserving them.

PPEC is pleased to celebrate National Forest Week this week, but it’s important to recognize that every day our members are continually working with recycled fibres, continually replanting and regenerating the little that is harvested, and continually adhering to sustainable forest management practices in their operations.

Ontario Blue Box program falls below 60% recycling target

Stewardship Ontario’s new 2020 Annual Report provides the most recent data on the performance of the Ontario Blue Box program.

Over 729,000 tonnes of packaging and printed paper were recycled in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, resulting in a 57.3% recycling rate, down from 60.2% in 2018. The Ontario government’s mandated recycling target is 60 per cent, under the previous regulation.

Recycled Tonnes - Stewardship Ontario
Source: 2020 Annual Report, Stewardship Ontario

One of the main reasons noted for the decline in recycled tonnes is due to a reduction in newsprint.

The below Material Composition chart illustrates the decline in the printed paper category (which includes newspapers, magazines, and catalogues), showing it’s gone from 55% in 2004, down to 30% in 2019. Meanwhile, paper packaging has doubled from 20% in 2004, to 40% in 2019.

Material Composition - Stewardship Ontario
Source: 2020 Annual Report, Stewardship Ontario

And access to recycling programs remained high in 2019, with 94% of Ontario households having access to Blue Box programs. Not only do Ontario residents have access, but they actively recycle their paper-based packaging, allowing PPEC’s paper packaging mill members to continue to maintain high levels of recycled content in Canadian made paper packaging.

PPEC has been monitoring the activities related to the Ontario Blue Box program and its transition to the new producer responsibility framework. We have recently participated in webinars hosted by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (July) and the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (August).

PPEC’s key issues concerning the new regulation include the addition of packaging-like products to the Ontario Blue Box program, and the new paper-based recycling targets.

Under the Blue Box Regulation, there are several newly obligated packaging/products including packaging-like products, examples of which that have been provided by RPRA include paper bags and cardboard boxes.

PPEC is monitoring this closely as it pertains to PPEC’s members, who have not historically been obligated stewards of the Ontario Blue Box program. As our members are not directly supplying finished products into the consumer marketplace – and are typically engaging in business-to-business transactions with distributors – we expect this to remain the same, and we will continue to follow this as new information becomes available.

Of importance to PPEC and its members are the new government mandated paper diversion targets laid out in the final Blue Box Regulation: 80% for 2026-2029, and 85% for 2030 and beyond.

PPEC is concerned with the feasibility of achieving the government’s new targets.

As noted above, the overall composition of the paper category has been changing over the years, with newspaper generation continuing to decrease, while other categories, like corrugated boxes, already have high diversion rates, which we believe leaves little room for improvement.

Diversion Targets - Stewardship Ontario

It remains to be seen how the program will achieve the high diversion targets for paper. The hope is that a new producer responsibility model will achieve greater economies of scale, by gaining new efficiencies with collecting, processing, and marketing a more consistent and standardized set of Blue Box materials across the province. This should also result in lower contamination levels, as well as improved consumer behaviour at the household level in source separating wastes from organics and recyclables.

PPEC will be watching the diversion data in the coming years, and we will continue to monitor news related to the transition of the Blue Box program closely.

Ontario Blue Box Update: GFL acquisition of CSSA and new PROs established

In June, the Ontario government released the final Blue Box regulation, which sets out the framework to transition to producer responsibility, and transfer the full operational and financial management of the Ontario Blue Box program to producers – the businesses that make and sell obligated materials into the Ontario marketplace – with implementation beginning in July 2023.

Chart of Transition to Full Producer Responsibility
Source: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

Since the release of the regulation, there has been lots of news that PPEC has been monitoring, summarized below.

GFL acquires CSSA and forms new Blue Box PRO

On July 6, GFL Environmental Inc., a North American waste management services company, announced it acquired the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance (CSSA), and formed the Resource Recovery Alliance (RRA), in response to the Ontario government’s shift to full producer responsibility for the Ontario Blue Box program.

CSSA was established to provide management and administrative services to obligated producers, and Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs), providing support for provincial recycling programs across Canada, including Ontario’s Blue Box program, currently operated by Stewardship Ontario.

GFL’s RRA will become a new PRO for the Ontario Blue Box program. In an article in Recycling Product News, GFL’s Patrick Dovigi talks producer responsibility and the Ontario Blue Box transition, he said that “The end goal of RRA in Ontario is, number one, to work collaboratively with all producers. Number two, it is to meet or exceed the recycling diversion targets set by the province in the most efficient and cost-effective way. With our experience, from collection to processing, we think we can be a value-added partner, not only to our PRO, but for other PROs and whoever else is involved.”

In the Globe and Mail’s article “GFL eyes bigger role in Ontario recycling regime, but plan raises alarms for large producers of recyclable waste,” GFL also said “the new initiative will help it expand in the United States, where jurisdictions are also considering switching to EPR.” Most recently, Maine signed legislation establishing EPR (extended producer responsibility) for packaging, the first bill of its kind to become law in the U.S.

The acquisition of CSSA is subject to closing conditions and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021.

Response to GFL announcement: concerns over competition and data

There are some concerns that GFL “could end up with an unfair advantage under the new rules,” given their size.

Under the new regulation, a PRO or group of PROs that has two-thirds of the producers of recyclables signed up, as measured by weight, can set the rules for the next iteration of the Ontario Blue Box program. Some are concerned that if GFL reaches that threshold, the recycling system would be managed by one large waste management company.

GFL is the fourth largest diversified environmental services company in North America with more than 11,500 employees. GFL’s recent earnings results show a 32% increase in second quarter revenue, with an estimated revenue of over $5 billion expected for 2021.

GFL’s CEO said it’s not GFL’s intention for their new PRO will dominate the system, and he expects that multiple PROs will work together. It’s also expected that RRA will form a board “that would oversee the competitive awarding of contracts,” and that “contracts for future curbside collection or processing of the province’s recyclables would still be subject to competition.” GFL performs a similar role for BC’s EPR program.

Stewardship Ontario responded to the GFL/CSSA announcement saying it is examining the acquisition announcement. Regarding concerns over protection of data, Stewardship Ontario’s response states that “CSSA has provided Stewardship Ontario with written assurance that, following the transaction, all Stewardship Ontario data will be held in confidence within RRA; will be used solely for the purposes of providing services under the current CSSA-Stewardship Ontario Services Agreement; and will not be accessible to GFL.” Stewardship Ontario will also consider if additional measures are needed to protect confidential data.

Industry forms a new Blue Box PRO: Circular Materials

On July 28, a group of 15 food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers, retailers and restaurants launched Circular Materials, a new, national, not-for-profit PRO to offer compliance services to companies obligated under EPR regulations in Canada.

The companies that founded Circular Materials include Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd., Empire Company, Kraft-Heinz Canada, Keurig Dr Pepper Canada, Lassonde Industries Inc., Loblaw Companies Limited, Maple Leaf Foods, McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited, Metro Inc., The Minute Maid Company Canada Inc., Nestlé Canada, PepsiCo Canada, Procter & Gamble Inc., Restaurant Brands International, and The Clorox Company of Canada Inc.

And while Circular Materials is a national organization, in Ontario it will operate as Circular Materials Ontario. They plan to represent producers’ collective interests, with the goal of ensuring that the blue box collection system operates with fair cost allocation, an open and competitive procurement process, and producer-led governance.

In addition to Circular Materials and RRA, waste company Emterra Group also has its own PRO called Ryse Solutions Inc. Registered Blue Box PROs will be listed on RPRA’s website.

It will take some time to understand the implications of the GFL/CSSA deal, including transferring assets producers have invested in over the years, to a for-profit company; or how a waste management company PRO will compete with a producer-led PRO, and the difference in their approach and business model, but PPEC will be monitoring this closely.

Survey Says: Recycled Content a Key Component to Paper Packaging’s Circular Economy

Most boxes and cartons manufactured in Canada are made of recycled content – from old boxes and other used paper material collected from the back of factories, supermarkets, office buildings, and residential Blue Box recycling programs.

And there has been a significant increase in average recycled content for paper-based packaging over the years, up from 47% back in 1990, to over 80% today, according to the latest results from PPEC’s recently released Recycled Content Survey.

PPEC’s 2020 survey of Canadian mills that makes packaging grades found that the average recycled content of domestic Canadian shipments of the three major paper packaging grades – containerboard (used to make corrugated boxes), boxboard (used to make boxboard cartons), and kraft paper (used to make paper bags) – is collectively 81.7%, up from 73.5% in 2018.

Chart of recycled content

The survey results reinforce that recycled content is a key component of the Canadian paper packaging industry’s circular economy.

Mills produce the raw material used to make paper-based packaging – and the majority use 100% recycled content – which is sent to a converter, where it is made into packaging products. Once used by the customer, it is recycled – keeping raw materials flowing for longer – making its way back to the mill to be remade into new paper packaging products.

The majority of Canadians – 94% to be specific – have access to recycling programs; and not only do they have access, they actively and regularly recycle their paper-based packaging, with the national recycling rate for corrugated boxes estimated to be 85%.

This important act of recycling allows mills to continue to maintain their high levels of using recycled content in Canadian made paper packaging.

PPEC New Infographic 2021 - circular economy and recycled content

2020 PPEC Recycled Content Survey Key Findings:

Key findings from Recycled Content Survey
  • Total Canadian mill shipments: 3.37 million tonnes
  • Total recycled content shipments to domestic and export markets: 2.35 million tonnes
  • Average recycled content of domestic shipments for all three major packaging grades: 81.7%
  • Average recycled content for domestic shipments of boxboard, which is used to make cereal or shoe boxes: 79.8%.
  • Average recycled content for domestic shipments of containerboard, which is used to make corrugated shipping boxes: 86.5%

For more information on PPEC’s 2020 Recycled Content Survey please see our Press Release and Backgrounder.

Ontario’s Blue Box Regulations Reflect PPEC Recommendations, Targets Still a Concern

On June 3, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks released the final Blue Box Regulation. The new regulation sets out a framework to transfer the costs of the blue box program away from local communities and requires the producers to operate and pay for blue box services.

PPEC has been actively engaged in the government’s consultation process, providing input into the development of the regulation at every stage, as well as providing our formal comments in response to the draft regulation on December 3, 2020; which outlined our industry’s concerns regarding the government’s proposed targets and approach to recycled content.

Several changes were made to the final regulation as a result of the consultations, which are summarized in the Environmental Registry posting.

Of importance to PPEC and its members, the Ontario government reduced the paper diversion targets, and removed the recycled content proposal, in the final Blue Box Regulation.

Paper Targets Reduced

For the paper material category, the target for both 2026-2029, 2030 and beyond, was proposed to be 90% in the draft regulation.

In the final regulation, the proposed target for paper was reduced to 80% for 2026-2029, and 85% for 2030 and beyond.

While PPEC is pleased the government heard our concerns and reduced the target, we remain concerned that the targets of 80% and 85%, respectively, may not be achieved, as explained below and in PPEC’s blog post, Ontario Blue Box will struggle to make 60% diversion, and none of the ministry’s proposed new targets will be reached.

PPEC commissioned a study, conducted by Dan Lantz at Crow’s Nest Environmental, to examine Blue Box diversion data to help determine if the government’s proposed diversion targets could be achieved. The study found that the proposed targets could not be met:

“A 90% target is unreachable. This would effectively require 95% of the population capturing and putting out for recycling 97% of their paper and making sure it is not contaminated at all. And then the recycling facility would have to capture 98% of all that paper (including paper that’s shredded) and send it on to the end-market.”

Blue Box diversion targets lower but still out of reach

While paper material is the single largest component of the Blue Box – with 67% of it currently being recovered for recycling – the composition of the overall paper category has been changing, which impacts the diversion rate.

Newspapers continue to see an overall decline as consumers choose to read the news online instead of in print – this decline in newspaper generation means less newspapers being diverted, since less are being collected in Blue Boxes, taking away from the overall paper diversion rate. While other categories – corrugated box diversion is 98% in Ontario – already have high diversion rates, leaving little room for any increase.

So as some materials within the paper category decrease, while others are already at high diversion rates, it begs the question of how will the overall paper diversion rate increase to meet the government’s new targets?

The hope is that a move to a more standardized system across the province will see better consumer participation at the household level – and at the end of the day, it is the consumer who makes the final decision of how they dispose of their waste and recyclables – so the more aware and educated they are, the more likely consumers are to properly source separate their waste and recyclables. This should help increase diversion, and hopefully reduce contamination levels – the higher the contamination, the harder it is to achieve better recovery rates.

But it all remains to be seen and PPEC will be watching the diversion data closely in the coming years.

Recycled Content Proposal Removed

The original proposal for recycled content in the draft regulation stated that:

    • The proposed regulation recognizes the use of recycled content sourced from blue box materials managed in Ontario that is incorporated into new products and packaging. A producer that uses recycled content sources from blue box materials would be allowed to reduce their supply for that material category for the next calendar year in proportion to the initiatives undertaken.
    • The proposed regulation would limit the overall reduction to no more than 50% for a material category. The proposed regulation establishes a formula for calculating a producer’s management requirement. The proposed regulation would ensure that the use of recycled content does not reduce overall diversion by redistributing the sum of recycled materials used in a given material category amongst all producers in that category.

In the final regulation, the government eliminated the recycled content proposal “to ensure that new provision can align with the federal intent to develop national recycled content standards.”

PPEC believes that recycled content is a key component of a circular economy, as it keeps raw materials flowing longer, reducing the need to extract virgin materials.

In our submission we explained our concerns with a mandated approach to recycled content: it only applies to the government’s jurisdiction i.e. Ontario, which could have international trade implications for material being shipped into Ontario; and it disregards that most design decisions on recycled content are often made at a global scale, not a local Ontario one.

We also felt that Ontario’s proposal would be administratively challenging in an already highly complex Blue Box program. In PPEC’s blog How about a different approach to recycled content and the circular economy?, we outline the advantages of looking at alternatives like a tax rebate or credit, as a way to support a Ontario recycling businesses and a more circular approach.

For now, we are pleased that the recycled content proposal has been removed, and we are proud that most of PPEC’s paper mill members already produce 100% recycled content boxes and cartons.

Special thanks to John Mullinder, PPEC’s long-standing Executive Director, for all his work in effectively representing PPEC members’ interests in working with the government on the development of the Ontario Blue Box regulation.

For more information, please see the Ontario government’s news release, Ontario Enhancing Blue Box Program, and the final Blue Box Regulation.

Articles on the Demand for Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Disregard the Importance of Environmental Sustainability

Over the last few months, there have been several articles about the increased demand for containerboard and corrugated cardboard boxes, due to the surge in online shopping during the pandemic.

There was the Wall Street Journal’s Cardboard Boxes Have Never Been in More Demand—or More Expensive (March 30), FOX Business’ Cardboard box prices skyrocket as COVID-19 pandemic causes spike in online orders (April 8), and Business Insider’s A surge in cardboard demand is causing a supply squeeze for box makers amid the online-shopping boom (May 20), to name a few.

These articles were primarily about the impacts of the increased demand on paperboard manufacturing businesses, including rising prices and shipment delays of raw materials.

And yet they barely mentioned the environmental attributes of containerboard and corrugated boxes, or the critical role that recycling plays in the sustainability of the paper packaging industry. Or even worse, provided misinformed comments about the industry.

It was not until the very end of the Business Insider article that recycling was even mentioned:

Terry Webber, executive director of packaging at the American Forest & Paper Association, said in a statement that “containerboard production in March increased 9% compared to March 2020,” when the pandemic hit the US. The AF&PA also mentioned that boxes are the most recycled packaging in the US, which can help keep the supply chain sustainable for both retailers and customers. 

And while the Wall Street Journal article was accompanied by a link to a 2019 video, Where Your Old E-Commerce Boxes End Up (about cardboard recycling), the focus of the article was about how the production of corrugated product increased 3.4% to 407 billion square feet in the U.S. in 2020, with the price of containerboard increasing by $50 to an average $765/ton, with only one mention related to recycling:

At a recent investor conference, Waste Management Inc. Chief Executive Jim Fish said more e-commerce could boost the waste hauler’s recycling business, which collects cardboard curbside and sells it to be pulped anew for more boxes.

Unfortunately, neither of these articles provided any additional context to explain the importance of why recycling helps keep the supply chain – and the industry – environmentally sustainable.

PPEC is proud of our industry’s circular economy approach to managing paper packaging products, which are continually collected and recycled through residential and business recycling programs across Canada, allowing them to be remade into new paper packaging.

Some key statistics:

  • 94% of Canadians have access to recycling[1]
  • Canada recycles almost 70% of its paper and cardboard, making it among the top paper recycling countries in the world[2]
  • The national recycling rate for corrugated boxes is estimated to be at least 85%[3]
  • Ontario has a 98% recovery rate for corrugated cardboard[4]
  • Most of the paper packaging material made by Canadian mills is 100% recycled content[5]
Articles on the Demand for Corrugated Cardboard Boxes Disregard the Importance of Environmental Sustainability

Not only are these materials recyclable, they are actually being recycled – an important distinction illustrating that Canadians understand their role and do their part by actively recycling. This allows those recycled materials to be remade into new paper packaging, as evidenced by the high amount of recycled content used by mills.

And it’s a similar story in the U.S. where 88.8% of cardboard and 65.7% of paper were recycled in 2020, according to The American Forest & Paper Association, who reported that those rates remained unchanged during the pandemic, calling that “a testament to the resilience of the paper and wood products industry.”

But it was FOX Business’ article that made no mention of the environment, except in a video clip that accompanied the story. In the 3-minute clip, FOX reporter Jeff Flock interviewed Andy Reigh of Welch Packaging, a corrugated box manufacturer located in Elkart, Indiana. Two minutes into the video, Flock makes a comment about “trees,” and then when he throws it back to the FOX newsroom, host Stuart Varney said “I thought all this stuff was recycled,” and you can barely hear Flock say that most of it is recycled.

Not only does recycling not get the airtime it rightly deserves as part of this story, but FOX also makes comments about trees and paper products with no context or facts. If they had the facts, they would know that the sustainable management of forests is a key issue for the paper packaging industry.

Even though most paper packaging made in Canada is high in recycled content, the paper fibres it was originally made from came from a tree. But by law, every hectare of commercial forest that is harvested in Canada must be successfully regenerated. On average, over 1,000 new tree seedlings are planted in Canada every minute. And all PPEC-member mills producing corrugated box material have independent, third-party certification that their paper fibre sources (whether wood chips and sawmill residues or recycled fibres) are responsibly sourced. When you add it up, the Canadian industry hardly uses freshly cut trees to make paper packaging, and the little that is harvested (0.2% in 2018) is successfully regenerated.

While the media articles mentioned told the story about increased demand for corrugated cardboard boxes, they did not provide the full story of what happens to those boxes after they leave the manufacturing facility; they end up going to a customer, then a recycling bin, and eventually those recycled materials are remade into new paper packaging. And that continuous and sustainable loop deserves to be part of the story, with the facts to back it up, to help inform and educate the public.


[1] Access to Residential Recycling of Paper Packaging Materials in Canada, October 2014. Report prepared for PPEC by CM Consulting.

[2] Two Sides Fact Sheet Corrects Common Environmental Misconceptions About the Canadian Paper and Paper-based Packaging Industry, January 2021.

[3] Where Packaging Ends Up, PPEC.

[4] 2020 Blue Box Pay-In Model, Stewardship Ontario.

[5] Recycled Content Survey, PPEC.