Increased Sustainability in the Corrugated Packaging Industry

corrugated packaging

Environmental consciousness is a buzz word that we hear more and more. And with that, sustainability plays a huge part. In a previous article, I discuss that paper is one of the easiest and most inexpensive consumer products to recycle. In this article, I wanted to take a deeper dive into a big part of the paper industry, corrugated packaging.

We are seeing some trends in the paper industry that illustrate the commitment corrugated packaging companies are making to increase the sustainability of their products and protect the environment through their design, manufacturing, and sourcing.

Design

Recyclable Materials:

The majority of corrugated packaging is comprised of between 70-100% recycled material. This is actually higher than the paper industry as a whole! Great packaging companies throughout the Midwest have been committed to sustainability long before it became mainstream. Green Bay Packaging, for example, “recycles old corrugated containers and mixed paper for reuse in the papermaking process for sustainable savings.” This not only maximizes cost savings for their partners, but it’s also a great use of renewable materials.

Right-Sized Packaging:

How many times have you received a package in the mail and asked yourself, “why did they ship this small item in such a massive box?” Many manufacturers nowadays are encouraging their customers to design smaller, right-sized packaging that reduces material waste.

Biodegradable:

So, you open that massive box, and you’re inundated with those annoying packing peanuts. Why did they pack a water bottle in a box big enough to hold a flat-screen tv? Who knows? Nowadays, companies are making those packing peanuts out of corn starch, thus making them biodegradable!

Manufacturing

Wastewater Management:

From installing rain gardens to feed plants that absorb pollutants, to using a “closed-loop” treatment system, to developing site-specific strategies to improve the quality of stormwater discharge, these are just a few ways companies are successfully reducing the wastewater that enters into the sewer system.

Eco-Friendly Ink:

Over the last 50 years, the industry has made great strides in the advancement of eco-friendly ink. Although significant progress has been made with the introductions of vegetable, soy, and water-based inks, they are still not 100% renewable. However, in 2017, we saw the introduction of algae-based ink, which is renewable and biodegradable.

Energy Conservation:

Corrugated packaging contains a large percentage of recycled components, requiring significantly less energy to manufacture, compared to virgin pulp. Also, the advanced use of heat recovery hoods, steam recovery, and heat exchangers continues to reduce the amount of energy needed in the corrugated packaging industry.

Sourcing

Sustainable Forestry:

Through establishing protected areas, responsible harvesting, improved logging techniques, and proper training, companies are able to meet the demand of their customers while balancing the needs of the environment, wildlife, and forest communities.

Transportation:

With more and more companies creating right-sized packaging for their products, it not only significantly cuts back the amount of material waste, but also their carbon footprint by reducing the number of vehicles required to transport their products.

If you’re in the paper industry, give me a shout!

By 2020, the packaging industry will reach an estimated market value of $1 trillion. And in 2016 alone, the global production of paper and cardboard was 411 million metric tons. The production of paper and cardboard products will only increase as E-commerce continues to grow.

As a result, the need for employers to hire top talent is escalating. If you have a pulp and paper background, especially on the paper machine side, give me a shout! I have several exciting opportunities that you don’t want to miss! Whether you are fresh out of school or you’re an industry vet, reach out to me today to discuss some of these hot positions.