01 December 2019 Paper

Cartons are the way to cut packaging's environmntal impact

ProCarton and 4evergreen are working to demonstrate to brands that fibre-based packaging is both sustainable and in every way a Good Thing.

Carton printers are getting the tools to show customers how green board packaging can be compared to single use plastics. ProCarton has published the latest assessment of a carbon footprint for a carton, and it shows a strong improvement from previous figures.

And on a wider scale European papermakers organisation Cepi has created 4evergreen, an alliance of brands, board producers and carton converters to promote the use of fibre-based packaging as a key part of the circular and sustainable economy, so mitigating the environmental impact of packaging. Cepi is also pressing for EU legislation to support product design for recycling.

Both initiatives come as consumers are showing greater awareness around the use of plastic, the EU introduces the Single Use Plastics Directive and with the development of new fibre-based packaging materials.

“Fibre-based packaging can be a game-changer for material substitution”, says Eija Hietavuo, chairwoman of 4evergreen and senior vice president sustainability Stora Enso Consumer Board. “Our common goal is to deliver a holistic approach to optimise the sustainability and circularity of the fibre-based packaging’s life cycle.”

ProCarton, the Pan-European advocate association for carton printers, has updated previous guidelines on how to measure the cradle to grave impact of paper based packaging in The Carton Footprint of Carton Packaging 2019 report, measuring the fossil and biogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the use of paper based packaging, using the most widely accepted and up to date measurement methodology.

While this means a direct comparison with previous calculations does not make sense, assessing the new figures using the old methodology shows a 9% improvement compared to the 2015 publication.

The report points out that cartons start from a favourable position, being based on a renewable raw material and one where forests are binding CO2 from the atmosphere. Throughout their life, cartons are storing CO2, and recycling delays the release of the stored carbon into the atmosphere.

When recycled, 91% of the carton can be recovered for reuse, while 5% of the material is used for energy recovery and just 4% ends up in landfill. Thus, when fossil fuel emissions are added to the biogenic greenhouse gas generated, reduced by the greenhouse gases removed through chose of material and its reuse, ProCarton comes up with a CO2e figure of 326kg per tonne of cartons produced.

It adds that each tonne of cartons, when first reaching the market, stores 1,689kgCO2e, reducing each time that the fibres are recycled until the material can no longer be recovered or reused and is burned for energy or ends up in landfill.

By Gareth Ward

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