Corrugated packaging ups its recycled content

The Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA), Itasca, Illinois, says advancements in papermaking technology and the availability of high-quality recovered fiber have made it possible to reuse more old corrugated containers (OCC) in the manufacturing process while also maintaining the strength characteristics of new boxes.

The recovered paper utilization rate in containerboard has been stable this decade, but it increased from 27 percent in 1990 to 47.3 percent in 2000 and reached 48.4 percent in 2015, according to the CPA. The amount of recycled content in boxes varies for different applications, with recycled content being as high as 100 percent for packaging many consumer product goods and as low as 38.4 percent for direct-food-contact packaging, such as fresh produce.

Corrugated products can be made from 100-percent-new fiber, 100-percent-recycled fiber or a blend of these fibers. “The worldwide market needs both new and recycled fiber in order to produce the best quality of corrugated material and ensure a consistent and sustainable supply,” says the CPA.

The OCC recovery rate reached a record-high 92.9 percent in 2015. “Both high recovery rates and high reuse of fiber are examples of the corrugated industry’s commitment to producing sustainable packaging,” the group says.

The CPA is jointly sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), AICC—the Independent Packaging Association, the Fibre Box Association (FBA) and TAPPI. The CPA says its mission is to foster growth and profitability of corrugated in applications where it can be demonstrated, based on credible and persuasive evidence, that corrugated should be the packaging material of choice and to provide a coordinated industry focus that effectively acts on industry matters that cannot be accomplished by individual members. CPA members include corrugated manufacturers and converters operating in North America.