Renewable, Recyclable Paperboard
Unlike many of the resources we extract from the earth, paperboard is inherently renewable and recyclable. We can’t grow new gold to replace what we’ve mined, nor can we extract additional oil once we’ve exhausted a well. Yet sourcing paper from managed tree farms and recycling paperboard packaging creates a virtually endless supply of paperboard, the production and consumption of which has a minimal environmental impact and promotes a sustainable world.
Did you know that the trees used to make paper are crops, just like apples or corn? This may sound strange, as many of us are familiar with the myth that forests are destroyed when we use paper. But here are the facts: virtually all virgin paperboard consumed in the United States today originates from certified tree farms where trees are planted, harvested, and replanted specifically to be used in packaging, paper, and other consumables. Unlike what you may have been led to believe, rainforests are not harmed during the production of paper. Rather, the milling of paper actually increases the number of trees on our planet; for every tree harvested from a managed tree farm, five more are planted, adding 1.7 million trees every day (AF&PA)!
Trees are also the most powerful concentrators of carbon on Earth. In fact, one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and emits four tons of oxygen (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture). So, while providing us with paperboard that protects products from damage during shipping and theft on our retail shelves, managed forests also absorb carbon and help our ecosystem remain in balance.
When we throw something away, it does not magically cease to exist because we can no longer see it; for decades, this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality has sent tons of potentially reusable materials to landfills. But as we have become more cognizant of our impact on the environment, expansive recycling programs have been implemented throughout Canada and the U.S. that have significantly reduced the amount of waste being thrown into landfills.
In fact today, 96% of the U.S. population has access to curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs (AF&PA), and paper-based packaging accounts for 71.3% of the nearly 27 million tons of packaging materials recovered for recycling (U.S. EPA). Paperboard is simply the most easily recyclable packaging substrate in the marketplace. For example, in 2011, 75.4% of all paper-based packaging was recovered for recycling, compared to only 13.5% for plastic. Moreover, whereas paperboard is inherently recyclable, there are seven major grades of plastic, some of which are difficult to recycle and most of which cannot be intermixed. Or consider that glass can be difficult to recycle as different varieties have varying melting points and chemical make-ups.
There is no question that recyclable, renewable paperboard is finding its way back into the hands of consumers at an explosive rate. Today, more than half of the products on supermarket shelves are packaged in recycled paperboard (Pulp & Paper Factbook). Indeed, paperboard has proven itself to be the reusable, recyclable substrate for today’s environmentally conscious consumer.
Sustainable practices, as defined by the United Nations, are those that "meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their [own] needs." Since paperboard is renewable and recyclable, when we produce paperboard packaging or purchase products packaged in paperboard, we are participating in sustainable practices that will not impinge upon future generations’ potential to prosper. Indeed, when we choose paperboard, we do more than simply meet our own needs; we take a decided step forward in creating a beautiful, sustainable world that our children and grandchildren will be grateful to inherit.
Individual Waste Reduction Model (iWARM) helps companies find out how much energy they will save by recycling