Celebrating Recyclable Paper Packaging on Earth Day and Every Day

Celebrating Recyclable Paper Packaging on Earth Day and Every Day

As the paper packaging industry, we aren’t shy to share our pride about our circular economy. In many ways, paper packaging is one of the original circular economies. During Earth Day, we celebrate the impact of our circular economy and our commitment to environmental sustainability each and every day.

This year’s Earth Day theme is #InvestInOurPlanet and is focused on engaging “people, governments, institutions, and businesses who participate in Earth Day to recognize our collective responsibility and to help accelerate the transition to an equitable, prosperous green economy for all.”

Through our commitment to sustainable forests, the ongoing use of recycled packaging, the commitment to telling our industry’s story, and the continued research and development undertaken to provide innovative and environmentally sustainable packaging solutions, investing in our planet has and will always be a key part of our commitment and action.

Commitment to sustainable forests
Even though most paper packaging in Canada is produced with high levels of recycled content, the paper fibres it was originally made from came from a tree. Trees are a renewable resource, and by law, every hectare of commercial forest that’s harvested in Canada must be successfully regenerated. 

Currently, the harvest and re-growth of Canada’s forests is balanced, with an average of more than 1,000 new seedlings planted every minute. Canada also leads the world in the amount of forest land independently certified as being sustainably managed. PPEC-member companies have gone one step further with third-party “chain-of-custody” certification, which provides independent proof that the companies receive their raw materials from responsible sources. Sustainable forest management is the first step in paper packaging’s circular economy.

Ongoing use of recycled materials
Using recycled material is critical to Canadian paper packaging industry’s circular economy. Most paper-based packaging products made in Canada are made from recycled content. In fact, in Canada, the average recycled content for the major types of paper packaging grades is nearly 82%. Our paper mills produce raw materials that are turned into packaging from recycled content. The raw material is then used in the production of various types of paper packaging. Once used by the customer, it is recycled, and then it makes its way back to the mill to start the process over again. 

Innovating packaging solutions
According to the federal government, Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, and only 9% is recycled. For paper packaging, the story is very different.  There is an estimated national recovery rate of at least 85% for corrugated boxes. New data has also shown that Canadian households and businesses diverted 3,502,683 tonnes of paper fibres (which includes newsprint, cardboard and boxboard, and mixed paper) in 2020.

Paper packaging is an environmentally sustainable, renewable and recyclable option for many products. As witnessed in the announcements from around the world, many companies are actively switching their traditional packaging to new paper-based packaging. 

Here are a few recent examples of companies switching to paper-based solutions

  • Calgary’s Wild Rose Brewery switched their beer ring carriers from plastic to paper-based (Source: CBC news)
  • Tim Hortons introduces wooden and fibre cutlery in Canada and launches trial of recyclable fibre hot beverage lids in Vancouver (Source: Cision News provided by Tim Hortons)
  • Loblaws switches to recyclable packaging on coffee products (Source: Food in Canada)
  • In North America, Amazon introduced the recyclable paper-padded mailer to replace their mixed mailer that used both plastic and paper (Source: Amazon)
  • Mars Bar, Snickers and Milky Way transition to recyclable paper-based wrappers in Australia (Source: Packaging Europe)
  • P&G to trial paper-based bottle for liquid fabric conditioner in the Netherlands (Source: Packaging Europe)
  • And the list goes on and on…

New solutions and uses for paper-based packaging will continue to be seen as companies look for innovative and impactful ways to move to provide customers with sustainable packaging. One such innovation may be the recent winner of the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge on Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic Packaging – Magemi Mining Inc. from Markham, Ontario. Thanks to a federal grant, they are developing a prototype of a reduced graphene oxide reinforced recycled paper, which is durable, highly recyclable, and could replace single-use plastic in various applications, such as plastic grocery bags.

As a circular economy, paper packaging comes from a renewable resource, uses recycled content, minimizes waste, and regenerates into new products that can be used repeatedly. Today and every day, we celebrate the impact of our circular economy and our commitment to environmental sustainability.

Look to paper packaging as an example of the positive impact of a circular economy. Learn more.