Archive for General

Pitting Packaging Materials Against Each Other Misses the Bigger Picture

Recent media articles on the potential of paper packaging to replace some of the single-use plastic items being banned in Canada, such as shopping bags and take-out food containers, miss the bigger picture of waste management and consumption in Canada.
Some articles have shared concerns raised by some environmentalists about shifting from plastic to paper packaging materials, but they miss providing fact-based information on how paper packaging is made, how forests are managed in Canada, the function of packaging, the rise of consumption, and the role of the consumer.

The major paper packaging grades made in Canada – which include containerboard (used to make corrugated cardboard boxes), boxboard (e.g., cereal or shoe boxes), and Kraft paper (used for bags and sacs) – are made from a highly recyclable and renewable material that is used repeatedly through the process of recycling.

And yet some articles refer to paper packaging as “single-use,” but on average, paper packaging fibres can be recovered and reused at least 5-7 times.
Focusing on the term “single-use” can miss the point about the larger issues surrounding waste management and consumption, and divert attention away from the federal government’s overarching goal of reducing plastic pollution.
In essence, all packaging materials – be it glass, metal, plastic, or paper – can be considered single-use, but it’s clear that some are more successfully recycled than others. Paper packaging is one of those successful examples. It has an established recycling system and end markets in place to capture used paper packaging so that those materials can be recovered and recycled to make new paper packaging products again and again.

While most paper packaging made in Canada is produced with recycled content, the paper fibres it was originally made from came from a tree. However, the Canadian paper packaging industry doesn’t use much in the way of freshly cut trees, and the little that is harvested must be successfully regenerated by Canadian law.

Some of the articles refer to deforestation without explaining what that means. There is an important distinction between deforestation and harvesting. Deforestation is when forest land is permanently cleared, with trees being removed so that the land can be used for something else. Harvesting, forest fires, and insect infestations do not constitute deforestation, since the affected areas will grow back.
The Canadian government conserves and protects its forests through strict laws and science-based sustainable forest management practices, which stipulate that all areas harvested on public land (94% of Canada’s forests are on public land) must be reforested, either by tree replanting or through natural regeneration (which occurs when new seedlings or sprouts are produced by fallen trees).
In addition, paper fibres used by PPEC member mills are verified to be responsibly sourced by independent, third-party forest certification organizations such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Z809).

While the purpose of some of these media articles is to share environmental concerns surrounding various packaging materials, the articles do not provide information about the function of packaging, or the proliferation of packaging, which should be recognized in any story about packaging.

The function of packaging is to protect its contents, keep the product safe, facilitate transportation along the supply chain, and provide information to the consumer. In some cases that includes mandated information (e.g., ingredient and nutrition labelling, storage information, product use, expiration dates, and bilingual requirements).
There is also the reality of the world we live in today that didn’t exist 20+ years ago. It is undeniable that the use of packaging has surged as consumer shopping and dining habits have changed rapidly. The rise of e-commerce and online shopping, along with the increased use of food delivery services, meal kits, and prepared meals in grocery stores, have seen an exponential increase in packaging and in waste.

It’s clear that consumers want convenience but there are trade-offs in society’s decisions. We all have choices we make when making purchasing decisions, just as we have choices in managing our waste.

Everyone has a role to play in minimizing waste and diverting recyclable materials from landfill – businesses that make and sell products and packaging, waste management industry (recyclers, haulers, MRFs), and consumers. Ultimately it is the consumer who decides how to treat their waste and they need to do their part of properly cleaning and sorting their recyclables from their waste and organics to ensure everything that can be recycled is recycled.

Yes, the federal government’s plastics ban will see businesses shift to other packaging alternatives, including paper-based packaging, and our industry will look to meet the demand as needed, creating paper packaging products that are responsibly certified, sustainable, and recyclable.

As the national association representing the environmental interests of the Canadian paper packaging industry, we will stand by our industry and work to communicate the facts about how paper packaging is made. Our industry has relied on recycled content as its feedstock for decades, making investments in recycling equipment, and buying back high-quality old corrugated cardboard and used paper packaging to ensure they have a good supply of recycled paper fibres. Using recycled content is an inherent part of the Canadian paper packaging industry’s business model.
When media articles narrowly focus on one material over another, they miss the opportunity of educating and informing the public on the bigger picture of how waste is managed, the proliferation of consumption, and how we all have a role to play in minimizing waste.

Rachel Kagan

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)

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Statistics Canada’s New Waste Management Survey Results: Paper Represents 35% of Diversion

On November 15, 2022, Statistics Canada released the results of its biennial Waste Management Survey, containing waste diversion data for 2020, broken down by material type and diversion source (residential and non-residential).

The new data shows that Canadian households and businesses diverted 9,903,027 tonnes of waste in 2020, and of the total amount diverted, 3,502,683 tonnes were paper fibres (which includes newsprint, cardboard and boxboard, and mixed paper), representing 35% of the total amount diverted in 2020.

While paper diversion represents the majority of materials diverted from landfill in Canada, paper diversion has been trending slightly downward year over year since 2014, which could be partly attributed to the continued decline of newsprint materials due to the shift from print to digital.

The next leading category of materials diverted in Canada for 2020 was organics with 32% of the total share of diversion.

Digging deeper into the paper diversion data, of the 3.5 million total tonnes diverted in Canada in 2020, about 44% was diverted through residential sources (ie. Blue Box residential municipal recycling programs), while the remaining 56% was diverted through non-residential sources (ie. Industrial Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) collection).

Below is a breakdown of the sources of paper diversion by province, with the two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, diverting the most paper fibre from both residential and non-residential (IC&I) sources.

Of the other 33% of diverted materials, Statistics Canada reported that “diverting plastic waste to avoid its disposal has become a challenge because of the many types of hard-to-recycle plastics being produced for consumption and entering the waste stream.” Of the 9.9 million total tonnes of waste materials diverted in Canada in 2020, 368,343 tonnes of plastics, or about 3.7%, were diverted.

The Government of Canada has been working to address plastic waste as part of its Zero Plastic Waste Agenda. PPEC continues to monitor government and industry activities related to plastics and we recently wrote about how Canada’s new ban on single-use plastics may impact the paper packaging industry. And while the plastics industry is looking to create a circular economy for its materials through various initiatives, including the Canada Plastics Pact, the paper packaging industry has long held a large-scale circular economy for its materials.

Using recycled materials is an inherent part of our members’ operations. For decades PPEC members have used recycled paper materials as its primary feedstock in making the three major paper packaging grades in Canada (containerboard, boxboard, and kraft paper). They use old corrugated cardboard and other paper-based materials, collected from the backs of factories, supermarkets, office buildings, and from residential recycling programs to make new paper-based packaging.

PPEC’s membership represents several different components of our industry’s recycling supply chain, not just as providers of recyclable paper-based packaging, but also as processors of collected paper materials, and as mills who are recycling and reusing the collected materials, which allows them to be remade into new paper packaging products again and again, keeping valuable raw material out of landfill.

Rachel Kagan

Executive Director
Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council

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PPEC Blog to Introduce Myself

Hello and welcome to my first blog as executive director of The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC). I am Rachel Kagan and as of February 1st I’ve taken over from John Mullinder, but you can still find him writing about paper on his personal blog.

But back to me… I enjoy organising information and data, drawing insights and identifying trends, and turning that into reports, blogs, social media posts, and other communication and advocacy vehicles.


For the past two years, I have been freelance consulting for small and medium-sized businesses and associations, providing research, legislative and policy analysis, content creation, and project management services.

Prior to that, I have 15+ years of industry association experience, working with members to develop consensus-based policy positions, as well as government submissions, industry reports, and presentations on packaging recycling and Extended Producer Responsibility, food waste, and climate change issues.

Over the past pandemic year, like others, my reliance on deliveries and online shopping has increased, and with it, so has my paper packaging (and my recycling of that paper packaging!). And in starting this role a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to look at a corrugated box the same way since!

Thanks to PPEC, I now know that the wavy layer of the box is the corrugated medium, and the layers of paper are the liners; but more importantly, I know that those boxes are sustainable and made of recycled content.

And thanks to the Canadian Corrugated & Containerboard Association’s Humble Box Sanitary and Safe video, I also now know that the box being delivered to my home is hygienic and clean.

But I have a lot more to learn about the industry, so I am reading PPEC’s past blogs, Fact Sheets, and other informative resources.

I look forward to applying my experience, skills, and interest in sustainability to PPEC’s work in tracking, monitoring, and promoting the environmental performance and achievements of the Canadian paper packaging industry.

Please feel free to email if you have any questions or comments for me as I get started in this new role.

Rachel Kagan

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)

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Time to move on

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

This will be my last blog as executive director of PPEC, the environmental council I have run for the past 30 years. Yes, 30 years. Unbelievable how time marches on, isn’t it?

I remember my first day on the job being asked to take the minutes of the board meeting. I knew only two people in the room (the ones who had interviewed me) and had absolutely no idea what these guys were talking about (C flute, Rule 41, corrugators). It was a steep learning curve, but I had some great help along the way from board members, staff, industry colleagues, government folks, environmental activists. A wide range of helpful people, many of them still in regular or occasional contact.

Thirty years ago, packaging was a major political target (things haven’t changed much, have they?) and paper packaging, in particular, was ‘public enemy number one.’ Paper packaging tends to be larger and stand out more; it’s widely used across a broad range of industries and commerce and delivers household goods as well; and somehow it is always captured in stock images of ‘nasty’ landfill. But when you dig deeper, as I did, you quickly discover that it has a great story to tell about sustainability and a circular economy. That’s what I’ve tried to add to, and pass on, over the last 30 years.

I won’t list the council’s many achievements here (there’s a series of videos on the website) but several were world or North American firsts. Possibly the most significant was leading North America in the further recycling of old cereal and shoe boxes (boxboard). Back in the mid 1980s, this already highly-recycled material ended up in the dump because the fibres were considered too thin and short to be of any further use in papermaking.

Working with brand owners like Lever Brothers, Kellogg’s and Procter & Gamble, and municipalities like Quinte in Southern Ontario, we undertook pilot trials at Strathcona Paper and Paperboard Industries, and developed what we called a food packaging protocol to give the brand owners confidence that re-using residential boxboard in new food packaging would not be a health concern. We then persuaded other mills (Atlantic Packaging, for example) to use old boxboard as filler material in corrugated board. To make a long story short, back in the early 1990s this material went straight to the dump. Today, some 94% of Canadians can recycle it, and those that don’t recycle it can send it on for composting.

Educating people about what has been done, and is being done, is a constant and daunting challenge, and this is possibly more so today with the proliferation of social media and a far looser adherence or ambivalence towards fact-checking. Yes, this bugs me intensely! Whether it’s on forestry or waste issues, recycling or recyclability, please dig for the facts before splurging into print. At the very least, please cite your sources of information so that people can check them out and judge their credibility. Here endeth the rave!

No, I am not sailing off into the sunset. This is au revoir not goodbye. I will continue to write about environmental issues that concern me.

I had planned to do some travel after PPEC, but COVID-19 has put that on hold. COVID-19 has, however, got me into walking/jogging seven kilometres almost every morning, and I am now in better shape than I have been for years. Mental shape too. There’s nothing like an early morning jog/walk to clear your head and think about the next blog, or article, or book you want to write. Yes, I’m working on another book. No surprise, it’s on false and misleading environmental claims! So, if you have some good examples, let me know and I’ll check them out!

In the meantime, PPEC is in good hands with a new executive director coming aboard. Here’s a link to the press release. Please give Rachel your support. Au revoir!

Executive Director (Part-time)

An opportunity has opened to lead the Canadian paper packaging industry on environmental issues.

The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC) was formed in 1990 as an umbrella organisation to focus on environmental issues affecting the sector. Its membership includes over 90% of the packaging mills in the country and most of its packaging converters.

PPEC has achieved a number of world or North American ‘firsts’ over its 30-year history and is widely respected as being pro-active and progressive. It lobbies governments on recycling and solid waste policy issues; networks with other industry players (its customers and its customers’ customers, industry stewardship bodies, municipalities, environmental groups, and sister associations in the United States); co-ordinates action industry-wide; develops practical solutions to problems; and promotes the industry’s environmental performance and achievements through its two websites and regular blogs.

This is a part-time position (three days a week or equivalent) with office and financial support staff provided. The successful candidate will report to a Board of Directors and be responsible for all the council’s work, including the hiring of specialists or consultants where applicable.

The council is looking for an energetic self-starter with 8-10 years  experience in environmental issues and superior communication skills (including social media). Previous work for an industry association, being bilingual, and knowing something about the paper industry or packaging would be an advantage but is not a requirement.

Salary for this contract position is $75,000 with health and pension benefits. The council’s office is in Brampton, Ontario but off-site work (home-based) is an option.

About us

PPEC is the national trade association representing the environmental interests of Canada’s paper packaging industry. It represents its members to federal, provincial and municipal governments, to industry forums and to environmental and consumer interest groups, serving both an advocacy and a policy input role.

For more information, please contact:

Geoff Love

Love Environment Inc 647-248-2500