Paper-Based Packaging Protects More Resources Than It Consumes

Paper-Based Packaging Protects More Resources Than It Consumes

Paper-based packaging is a versatile, cost-efficient and safe method to transport, protect and preserve a wide array of items. It is engineered to be sturdy, yet lightweight, and is customizable to meet product- or customer-specific needs.

Corrugated containerboard is used to ship and transport everything from electronics to fragile glassware to perishable goods for industrial and residential use; paperboard packages food, medicine and toiletries for handy storage and display; paper bags give customers a sustainable option to safely carry their purchases home; and paper shipping sacks are often used to package and ship bulk materials like cement, animal feed or flour.
American Forest and Paper Association, 2020

Packaging plays a critical role in protecting products and resources, and often helps reduce and prevent waste – especially when it comes to food.[1]

On average, packaging makes up only 10% of a food product’s energy footprint. In contrast, the food itself accounts for about 50% of the product’s energy footprint. So, protecting that food through packaging means keeping a big part of its footprint in check.[1]

Cities exist with the help of packaging. Most of the food and other goods they require are grown and produced outside of urban centers.[1] In 2019, 271 million Americans lived in urban areas; 31 million Canadians lived in urban areas.[2]

The optimal packaging solution provides sufficient protection while minimizing its impact on the environment.
World Wildlife Fund, 2014

Corrugated packaging can be a critical supply-chain efficiency tool for cost-effective product protection from products’ points of origin to their points of purchase and end-use.[3]

When the results of the available field surveys are compared to the acceptable limit for microbial loads on corrugated containers versus reusable plastic containers (RPC) for fresh produce, 100% of corrugated containers met acceptable sanitation standards while percentages as low as 50% of RPCs evaluated did not meet these same standards.[4]

The Recycled Paperboard Technical Association (RPTA) has developed a comprehensive program of testing and management systems, and uses a rigorous auditing process conducted by NSF International to assure brand owners that paper-based packaging products produced at North American RPTA-member mills are suitably pure for direct food contact packaging applications and meet all U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory requirements that apply to recycled paperboard and corrugated board use in food packaging.[5]

Sources:

  1. World Wildlife Fund, 2014
  2. The World Bank, 2020
  3. FBA, 2020
  4. Haley & Aldrich, Inc., 2015
  5. Recycled Paperboard Technical Association, 2020

Paper-Based Packaging Is Recycled More Than Any Other Packaging Material

Paper-Based Packaging Is Recycled More Than Any Other Packaging Material

The benefits of recycling paper-based packaging include extending the supply of a valuable natural resource (wood fiber), saving landfill space, avoiding greenhouse gas emissions of methane released when paper decomposes in landfills and reducing the amount of energy needed to produce some paper products.

Nearly 81% of all paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recovered for recycling, and more than 96% of corrugated (cardboard) boxes are recycled. Only 14% of U.S. plastic packaging is recycled.[1] In Canada, the national recovery rate of old corrugated boxes for recycling is an estimated 85%, with at least one provincial recycling program reaching 98%.[2] Corrugated box fibers are recycled 7-10 times to make new boxes and other paper products.[3]

Globally, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. In addition, plastic packaging is almost exclusively single-use, especially in business-to-consumer applications. Plastics that do get recycled are mostly recycled into lower-value applications that are not again recyclable after use.
World Economic Forum, 2016

Around 90% of folding cartons (by the ton) in North America sent to the frozen foods sector are made of recyclable paperboard, and are easily recyclable in the normal waste stream.[4]

In addition to being recyclable, paper and cardboard packaging is made with recycled fiber. In the U.S. for example, the average corrugated box is made with 50% recycled content, and nearly all old corrugated containers are used to make new paper products.[5]

In Canada, corrugated boxes and boxboard used for products like cereal and shoe boxes are mostly 100% recycled content.[6]

Nearly all Americans[7] and Canadians[8] have access to community curbside and/or drop-off recycling programs for paper and paper-based packaging.

Today, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80 billion to $120 billion US annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use. The best research currently available estimates that there are over 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean today. The ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).
Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017

Sources:

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2021
  2. Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC), 2020
  3. Fibre Box Association (FBA), 2020
  4. Paperboard Packaging Council, 2019
  5. FBA, 2020
  6. Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC), 2019
  7. American Forest & Paper Association, 2019
  8. PPEC, 2020

Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign Scores Big Wins, Builds Momentum for Strong Results in 2021

New Fact Sheet on Greenwashing Now Available

With pandemic lockdowns as a backdrop, banks, utilities, telecoms and other large service providers boosted their efforts to switch customers from paper to electronic communication over the last 15 months, and with those efforts came a new wave of misleading environmental claims about paper – greenwashing.

The Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign mobilized to push back against this tide of new claims in January after a 10-month pandemic-related interruption, and wins have been steadily increasing. Thanks to this renewed effort, 14 companies have changed or removed misleading environmental claims related to print and paper so far this year, including large banks, utilities and notably, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose communications reach 44 million Americans or 15% of the U.S. population. This is in addition to seven wins in 2020 on greenwashing cases that were already in progress.

“We know that consumers are increasingly aware of the impact their choices have on the environment, and that environmental claims made by companies they trust can influence their decision making,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “But those claims often are not based in fact. Many companies continue to encourage consumers to switch from paper to electronic communications using unsubstantiated claims that digital communication is green, saves trees and is better for the environment, and this activity has increased significantly during the pandemic.

“These are clear cases of greenwashing that damage consumer perceptions of paper and put at risk the livelihoods of more than 7 million people in the North American print, paper and mail sector,” Rowzie adds. “That’s why Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign is needed now more than ever.”

The campaign has achieved a total of 148 wins in the U.S. and Canada (more than 700 globally) since its inception in 2012, bringing the North American success rate to 68%.

The goal of the Anti-Greenwashing Campaign is to directly engage and encourage major North American corporations to adopt best practices for environmental marketing established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC),  the Competition Bureau of Canada (CBC), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14021). These standards are quite detailed, but in a nutshell they say that environmental marketing claims should be accurate, substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence and should not suggest environmental benefits by using broad, vague terms like “green” and “environmentally friendly.”

“One of the distinguishing features of the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign is that we don’t push a ‘pixels versus paper’ scenario but instead recognize that both print and electronic communications have attractive benefits and environmental consequences,” Rowzie explains. “It’s a straightforward approach that simply says, ‘Hey Corporate CEO, your company is making unsubstantiated marketing claims about the environmental attributes of print and paper. Here are the facts. We encourage you to follow best practices for environmental marketing from the FTC, CBC and others, and put an end to your misleading claims.’”

Not only are greenwashing claims unacceptable under established environmental marketing standards, but they can also harm the companies making them. “Greenwashing distracts from a company’s legitimate environmental initiatives and can damage corporate reputations when misleading claims are exposed,” Rowzie explains. “And some consumers are skeptical that a commitment to environmental improvement is the underlying motive for companies’ push to go paperless. In a recent Two Sides survey, just over half of consumers said that when a company encourages them to switch from paper to digital communication because “it’s better for the environment,” they know the real reason is that the company is trying to cut costs.”

To promote greater understanding of what greenwashing is and why it should be avoided, Two Sides has published a new four-page fact sheet titled Go Green, Go Paperless” Messages are Misleading: The Facts About Greenwashing. 

 “We use this fact sheet when we contact companies about their paper greenwashing claims, but it’s a great tool that anyone can download and share with employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders,” Rowzie explains. “It’s an effective tool to help explain what greenwashing is, the harm it causes and why paper is an inherently sustainable choice that contributes to a circular economy.”

If you see a greenwashing claim from one of your service provides – on a bill, statement, envelope, website or email – send a screenshot, scan or link to info@twosidesna.org.   

For more facts about the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, click here.

 

 

New Two Sides Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Believe Paper-based Packaging is Better for the Environment than Other Packaging Materials

Packaging Preferences Unpacked

 

CHICAGO – June 9, 2021 –  With physical stores closed during the pandemic, the boom in online shopping resulted in record numbers of packages arriving on consumers’ doorsteps. Along with all that merchandise came a growing awareness of the materials used to package and ship products, and the impact those materials have on the environment. A new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna found that U.S. consumers believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment than other packaging materials.

Paper: The preferred and sustainable packaging choice

Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferred packaging material (paper/cardboard, plastic, glass and metal) based on 15 environmental, aesthetic and practical attributes. Overall, paper/cardboard packaging was preferred for 10 of the 15 attributes, with half of respondents saying paper/cardboard is better for the environment. Consumers also preferred paper/cardboard packaging on other environmental attributes, including being home compostable (65%) and easier to recycle (44%).

Glass packaging was preferred by consumers for four practical and aesthetic attributes, including being reusable (39%), having a preferred look and feel (39%), providing a better image for the brand (38%) and better protection (35%).  45% preferred metal packaging for being strong and robust. Plastic packaging was not preferred for any of the 15 attributes but was ranked second for six attributes. Only one in 10 respondents believe plastic packaging is better for the environment.

Consumers demand that brands and retailers do more

Brands and retailers play a crucial role in driving innovation and the use of recyclable packaging. In response to increasing consumer pressure to operate more sustainably, brands and retailers in many sectors, from wine, spirits and soft drinks to candy, cosmetics and apparel are shifting from plastic to paper packaging.

The survey found that 49% of consumers would buy more from brands and retailers who remove plastic from their packaging, and 39% would consider avoiding a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging.

“It’s important for consumers to understand that just because packaging is recyclable does not mean it actually gets recycled,” explains Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Around 66% of all paper and paper-based packaging and nearly 89% of corrugated cardboard gets recycled into new products in the U.S. These high recycling rates and expected increases are due to the paper industry’s already completed and continuing investment in recycling infrastructure, which between 2019 and 2023 will exceed $4 billion. In comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection reports that plastics, glass and metals are recycled at just 9%, 25% and 34%, respectively.”

Who should be responsible for reducing waste from single-use packaging?

As consumers, businesses and governments looks for ways to create a more sustainable, circular economy, waste from single-use packaging, particularly in marine environments, has come into sharp focus. When consumers were asked who has the greatest responsibility for reducing the use of non-recyclable, single-use packaging, more than a third (36%) said individuals have the primary responsibility, followed by 23% who believe it’s up to brands and retailers, 23% who believe it’s up to packaging manufacturers, and 18% who believe it’s the government’s responsibility.

“As the call for the circularity of product lifecycles grows louder, paper has always had a head start,” Rowzie says. “And the industry’s strong support and investment in recycling has transformed the circularity of paper packaging from vision to reality. At a time when there is growing alarm about the low recycled rates of other packaging materials, paper recycling is a striking exception.”

About Two Sides North America, Inc.

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, and dispels common environmental misconceptions about paper products. We are part of the Two Sides global network which operates across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

About the survey

The survey, Paper’s Place in a Post-pandemic World, queried a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older across the United States in January 2021.

DOWNLOAD THE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

Media contact

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America, Inc.

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

 

 

Member Spotlight

From its humble beginnings more than 78 years ago, Case Paper has grown to be one of the largest paper merchants and converters in the United States. Even though their products, partnerships and capabilities have changed over the years, their commitment to going above and beyond for their customers, or as they say, “being On the Case,” has never wavered.

Headquartered just outside New York City in Harrison, New York, the company has locations in California, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and recently acquired a new lamination and coating business in Indiana, Case Makes.  Case Paper combines its distribution infrastructure and wide-ranging inventory of paper and board stock with the right equipment and the know-how of a great team to deliver the products their customers need, when they need them.

When it comes to sustainability, Case believes they have both opportunities and obligations to take actions that positively affect our planet. “If we don’t protect our environment we won’t have paper, and we can’t take action without engaging all of our people,” says company President Simon Schaffer-Goldman. “By engaging our employees in initiatives to source our products responsibly, help reduce waste and energy consumption, and strengthen the communities where we operate, we are able to play our part in creating a better world today and for generations to come.”

Case is proud to source 100% of its paper from third-party certified mills (FSC, SFI and PEFC), and offers many paper and board grades with recycled content, including, Primalith™, Sunshine™ Plus, and Coated Recycled Board.  In addition, they are actively testing sustainable laminate options and offering recyclable, repulpable and plastic-free solutions from Case Makes, such as their Transfer Metallized product.

The company is also making strides in terms of energy efficiency by installing solar panels to help power their Chicago facility.

Case also has a strict waste recovery process at all of their facilities. By custom converting special sheet sizes for customers, Case minimizes unnecessary paper waste. They also recycle roll cores and a portion of their wooden pallets, even repurposing some into scratching posts for cats. They like to say they are “just doing their part to be on the right side of hiss-tory!”

This type of lighthearted humor is a hallmark of Case Paper’s communication with their stakeholders, from their pun-packed website to their colorful and character-filled social media content.

“We like to have fun, sharing a lot of ridiculously humorous things on our social platforms,”  Schaffer-Goldman says. “But we are also ‘On the Case’ to share important and valuable information with our networks. We are proud to be a member of Two Sides, which allows us access to the amazing sustainability information and research that the organization has to offer. This way, we at Case are aligned with the facts and our followers can be too.”

For more information about Case Paper, please visit www.casepaper.com.

 

Follow Case Paper:

On LinkedIn:    @ company/case-paper-company/

On Facebook:  @casepapercompany

On Instagram: @casepaperco

To learn more about the benefits of Two Sides membership, please click here or download our Membership brochure

 

Five Signs Those Anti-Paper Studies May Be Bogus … And How to Spot Them

You’ve seen them in popular periodicals, industry newsletters and in your email: some self-interested group announces the completion of a “scientific comparison” that “proves” the superiority of an alternative material or “environmentally friendly” substitute for paper or paper-based packaging. The study appears to have all the trappings and buzz words of legitimate research, but is it?

To give you an idea of how Two Sides approaches this challenge, what follows are five signs that make us suspicious of half-baked or bogus comparisons to paper.  You too can look for these signs whenever these studies cross your desk.

To begin with, anyone setting out to prove there’s a better alternative to paper products has a very high hurdle to clear: proving that theirs is more sustainable than paper or paper-based packaging. It can take a lot of data stretching and twisting to yield a conclusion often at odds with the facts, and that kind of manipulation leaves telltale signs.

Who commissioned the study? The first question to ask is best summed up with the Latin phrase, cui bono, who benefits? Was the research conducted in such a way that its results were preordained to support its sponsors? There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a self-interested group or competitor commissioning a study comparing its alternative with paper products, as long as it is honest, scientific, and the researchers are allowed to let the chips fall where they may.

Is it based on a real life cycle assessment (LCA) or is it a marketing piece in LCA disguise? Next, we look to see if the study is one of a growing cottage industry of marketing pieces wrapped in a veneer of life cycle terminology. A good first step is to determine if the study complies with the LCA principles and procedures developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in this case ISO 14040 and 14044. ISO defines LCA as a compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle. A study that conforms with ISO standards carefully defines the products that are bring compared and what they are designed to do (what ISO calls their “functional unit”), sets specific study boundaries around the products, and meets other requirements, including how flows into or out of the production process should be allocated. Adherence to ISO standards doesn’t guarantee the scientific fairness or integrity of a study that makes environmental comparisons, but it makes it more difficult for the sponsors to bias their conclusions and easier to spot when they do.

What’s under the hood? No matter what the supposed pedigree of a study, we need to know what’s in it. Do the parts support the whole? For that very reason, two of the most critical principles of ISO 14040 for LCA studies are transparency and critical review, especially when two or more alternatives are being compared for public consumption. An LCA is transparent when its goals, methodology, data sources and assumptions are visible for all to see. A comparative LCA can only be trusted when we can be sure that it doesn’t set different goalposts for different products, a practice we often see in studies that purport to show the superiority of plastics or alternative-fiber paper to wood-fiber paper. We also check to see if there is an independent critical review by a third-party panel of three experts (a requirement to achieve ISO-conformance) and who is on that panel. ISO standards require that the LCA sponsors appoint panel members whose job it is to examine and comment on the integrity of the study at various stages in the process.

Are there footnotes to nowhere? When we’re confronted with conclusions that defy common sense, our instinct is to trace the data behind those conclusions to the specific, relevant research cited to support them, whether those findings were original to the study or whether they come from another credible source. Here’s where many of these claims break down. We often find that the trail of citations goes in circles, or nowhere at all. Some advocacy groups, in particular, have a habit of citing another advocacy group’s study, and that second group may not have conducted any original research either. The last reference in the chain may just be dangling in space, without any supporting data other than opinion or conjecture.

Does one size fit all? Another common practice is to use generic online environmental calculators. A surprising number of businesses, advocacy groups and even large corporations, who should know better, use these tools to generate data that will serve as the foundation for their conclusions. The lure – they’re typically free, easily accessible and deliver immediate results. However, unlike LCAs, which are product- and process-specific, online calculators are blunt instruments that of necessity are based on national industry averages – and sometimes on assumptions that don’t hold up in the real world. At best, they serve as a starting point to suggest further study. At worst, they are about as relevant to an individual product as a daily horoscope. Change a parameter here or there, and the result could be the opposite of what the calculator suggests.

In a similar way, companies or groups trying to avoid the time and expense of properly conducted LCAs often give in to the temptation to claim that someone else’s study validates their own product comparisons, suggesting, for example, that the results of an LCA on a corrugated box produced in Indonesia would apply to corrugated products produced in North America. Valid LCAs are as accurate a reflection of the processes used to manufacture an individual product as their practitioners can make them. For example, among other things, the LCA for a paper product would evaluate data from the specific mill that manufactured it – raw materials, chemicals, water and energy consumption, type of energy used, greenhouse gas emissions released and so on. With this level of specificity, what’s true for one product is highly unlikely to be true for another.

In the real world, comprehensive, ISO-conformant life cycle studies with external third-party critical review can be expensive and time- and labor-intensive, requiring careful assumptions, mountains of data and sound methodology. For those who market or advocate substitutes for paper products, LCAs often lead to conclusions they hadn’t anticipated and don’t like. Consequently, some of them opt for half-baked environmental comparisons they believe will throw the worst light on paper products.

 

Two Sides Responds to Misleading Claims about the Sustainability of Paper Products in Popular Science

An article titled “Modern paper use is wildly unsustainable” recently appeared in Popular Science.  Two Sides responded to the publication to set the record straight.

 

April 14, 2021

TO: Popular Science

RE: Article titled “Modern paper use is wildly unsustainable” published April 6, 2021

To the editors:

Myths about the sustainability of the North American paper industry and its products are common media fodder in today’s world of sensationalized, headline-driven journalism. This time it was the turn of Popular Science to weave together a collection of standard anti-paper tropes into your “Modern paper use is wildly unsustainable” article.

Shouldn’t a publication dedicated to reporting on science resist the easy narrative, hold up a submission to the illuminating glow of real authoritative data and pick up the phone to ask industry scientists or a school of forestry if any of what the authors claim makes sense?

After all, paper is not only the most recycled material in North America. It is a material whose industry grows and regrows its own feedstock (wood fiber), derives most of the power to drive its processes from carbon neutral biofuel, and recycles more than 95% of the chemicals it uses to turn trees into pulp. This is not “wildly unsustainable.” This is a description of some of the world’s most sustainable products.

You always know what’s coming when an article begins with the classic, bait-and-switch doomed forests appeal. The hook is baited by painting a mental picture for the reader of the destruction of faraway endangered forests like those in Borneo and the Amazon, and the switch is the implication that these forests are the source of trees for North America’s paper and paper-based packaging products.

Paper products manufactured in the United States and Canada come from sustainably managed forests in North America, and these forests are not “disappearing.” Net forest area in the United States increased by approximately 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, while Canada’s net forest area was stable between 1990 and 2020 at approximately 857 million acres.1

Each year, forests in North America grow significantly more wood than is harvested. In the United States, the net average annual increase in growing stock on timberland is about 25 billion cubic feet. Tree cutting and removal in the U.S. occurs on less than 2% of forestland per year in contrast to the nearly 3% disturbed annually by natural events like insects, disease, and fire.2 Harvesting occurs on 0.2% of Canada’s forestlands, while 4.7% is disturbed by insects and 0.5% is disturbed by fire.3

Contrary to the authors’ claim that manufacturing and using paper destroys forests, the demand for sustainably sourced paper and paper-based packaging creates a powerful financial incentive for landowners not only to manage and harvest their land responsibly, but also to keep it forested rather than converting it to non-forest uses, one of the real documented causes of forest loss.

The authors’ proposed solution to this non-problem of paper-caused forest loss is not the sure thing they claim it is: alternative fibers. Alternative fibers can be sustainably used in certain grades of paper and under certain circumstances, particularly in regions of the world like India and China where wood fiber is scarce. But their claim that “alternative materials have a fraction of the environmental impact” that tree fiber does is a gross exaggeration.  While a comprehensive life cycle assessment is required to determine the full environmental impacts of alternative fiber papers, some broad conclusions can be drawn.

To begin with, alternative fibers are often grown like agricultural crops, which means there will be no trees on the landscapes where they are planted, in perpetuity. Forestlands that are harvested for tree fiber are replanted or allowed to grow back naturally. Also like agricultural crops, alternative fiber crops typically require more water and pesticides and generate more wastewater runoff than forests. And since, unlike trees, there is little residual biomass in alternative fibers, the process of converting them to paper must rely more on fossil fuels.

Moreover, global statistics on forests do not suggest that the use of alternative fiber paper products would protect forests for the long-term. The regions of the world that consume the least amount of wood are those that have the highest rates of deforestation.1

The authors are correct that paper products as a whole are recycled at over 60% in the United States. In fact, the figure is closer to 66%, and 70% in Canada, but even these statistics are only half the story. Some paper products, like corrugated boxes are recycled at rates of over 90%, demonstrating the potential for overall recycling rates to go even higher.4,5

The North American paper industry has invested tens of millions of dollars in capital-intensive recycling technology, as well as the collection and transportation systems to support it. As of the most recent survey, over 80% of all paper mills in the United States use recovered fiber as at least part of their fiber source. The investments are paying off as newer equipment and processes are allowing the paper mills to repulp post-consumer paper that was once unusable, including more of the paper cups and soiled pizza boxes mentioned by the authors.

Neither should your readers be concerned about “chlorine-based bleaches used to make paper whiter.” As the authors correctly noted, there are “restrictions on the kinds of bleach that paper companies can use,” but the story doesn’t end there. Over the last three decades, massive voluntary industry investment and stricter environmental regulations have combined to drive major advances in bleaching technology. Since the authors specifically refer to  “modern” paper making, let’s be clear: today’s state-of-the art mill processes have dramatically reduced the chances that the substances referred to by the authors can be released into the environment.

Yes, by all means, we should retrain our brains. But let’s start by resisting the urge to cut and paste the same tired myths into sensational retread articles. Let’s start with a fresh look at the truly “modern” production and use of paper and build the training on a foundation of real-world data and science.

Sincerely,

Kathi Rowzie

President

Two Sides North America

 

1UN Food and Agriculture Organizations, 2020

2 USDA Forest Services, 2019

3 Natural Resources Canada, 2020

4 American Forest and Paper Association, 2020

5 Forest Products Association of Canada, 2020

 

Letters to Santa … A Sustainable Holiday Tradition

Who depends on print and paper more than anyone else this time of year? Why, Santa of course! A handwritten letter is still the method of choice for sending Christmas wish lists to the man in red. According to the U.S. Postal Service, hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to Santa Claus arrive at post offices across the country each December. Santa’s helpers, through programs like the USPS’s 100-year-old Operation Santa® program, respond to many of these letters, making holiday wishes come true for needy children.

In addition, the USPS provides a fun way for Santa to reply to children’s letters — complete with the North Pole postmark! The Greetings from the North Pole Post Office program adds to the excitement of Christmas and is ideal for getting kids interested in letter writing, stamps and penmanship. To participate, letters to Santa must be in the mail by December 7.

The time-honored tradition of putting ink on paper, sealing the envelope and dropping a letter to Santa in the mail is one of those very personal, tactile experiences that’s impossible to capture with an email. It’s also a very sustainable way to communicate with the North Pole’s most celebrated resident. In fact, we have it on good authority that Santa, a fellow known for keeping lists, uses the following “Top 10” to remind people that print on paper is a sound environmental choice.

Santa’s Top 10 Facts on Print and Paper Sustainability

  1. Paper is made with wood fiber from trees grown in sustainably managed forests. Wood, when sourced from well managed forests or plantations, is a renewable material with many advantages over non-renewable alternatives. (World Wildlife Fund)
  2. More trees are grown in the U.S. and Canada – through planting and natural regeneration – than are harvested each year. (U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada)
  3. Between 1990 and 2020, U.S. net forest area increased by 18 million acres – an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day! Net forest area in Canada remained stable at around 857 million acres during the same period.  (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)
  4. Logging to make paper is not considered a cause of deforestation because the trees are expected to grow back through natural regeneration or sustainable forestry practices. (UN Food and Agriculture Organization)
  5. 58% of the forestland in the U.S. is owned and managed by private forest owners, which include nearly 11 million family forest owners who typically own less than 100 acres. 89% of wood harvested in the U.S. comes from these private forests, which provide most of the wood for domestically produced paper products. (U.S. Forest Service)
  6. The demand for sustainable paper products provides a strong financial incentive for landowners to manage their land responsibly and keep it forested rather than selling it for development or other non-forest uses. (Dovetail Partners)
  7. In the United States, paper is recycled more than any other material, including plastics, glass and metals. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
  8. More than 66% of paper and paper-based packaging produced in the United States is recovered for recycling, and in Canada nearly 70% is recovered and recycled. (American Forest and Paper Association, Forest Products Association of Canada)
  9. Over 65% of the energy used to manufacture U.S. paper comes from renewable, carbon-neutral fuels, primarily wood-based biomass. (American Forest and Paper Association)
  10. The print, paper and mail value chain supports 7.4 million U.S. jobs and contributes $1.5 trillion in sales revenue to the U.S. economy. (EMA Foundation)

Click here for more facts on the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

 

As online shopping continues to grow, brands should consider consumers’ packaging preferences

The coronavirus pandemic’s demand-shock, brick-and-mortar store closures and stay-at-home orders have upended retail sales. As total spending declines, online spending is projected to surge by 18% in 2020, reflecting the impact of new buyers joining the online retail space as a result of the pandemic.  With ecommerce expected to reach 14.5% of total retail sales this year – both an all-time high and the biggest ever share increase in a single year* – the findings of Two Sides’ recent U.S. Packaging Preferences Survey provide brand owners with valuable insights into consumers’ current thinking on packaging materials, online shopping and related behavior.

  • More than half of consumers (57%) prefer products ordered online to be delivered in paper/cardboard packaging, and two-thirds (66%) believe paper/cardboard packaging is better for the environment than other types of packaging.
  • 70% of consumers prefer products ordered online to be delivered in appropriate fitting packaging, i.e., not too big for the size of the product inside.
  • Consumers across the United States are willing to change their behavior to shop more sustainably. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) are willing to spend more on a product if it is packaged using sustainable materials, and more than a third (36%) said they would consider avoiding a retailer who is not taking steps to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging.
  • When asked to rank their preferred packaging materials (paper and cardboard, glass, metal or plastic) based on 15 environmental, practical and visual/tactile attributes, paper and cardboard packaging ranked highest on 11 of 15 attributes, including being home compostable (69%) and easier to recycle (51%).
  • Glass packaging ranked highest among consumers on three practical and tactile/visual attributes, including being reusable (36%), having a preferred look and feel (32%) and providing better protection (29%).  Nearly half of respondents (47%) ranked metal packaging highest for being strong and robust. Plastic packaging was not ranked highest for any of the 15 attributes but was ranked second highest for seven attributes.
  • The survey showed that paper/cardboard is correctly considered by consumers to be the most recycled packaging material, but only 24% think the U.S. recycling rate for paper/cardboard packaging exceeds 60%. In fact, 73% of all paper-based packaging in the United States is recycled, and 88% of cardboard is recycled, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Consumer attitudes toward plastic are clear, with 57% of survey respondents indicating they are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging, 36% saying they would avoid retailers if they knew they were not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable plastic packaging, and 44% saying the use of non-recyclable packaging should be discouraged through taxation.

“Only time will tell the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s little doubt that it is already changing many aspects of modern life, including the way we shop for everything from groceries, beauty items and health-related products to electronics, sports equipment and pet supplies,” says Two Sides Vice President of Operations Kathi Rowzie.

“Shopping online will become the new normal for many consumers as companies enhance their supply chains, get more efficient at packaging and order fulfillment, and speed up delivery. It’s also clear that growing awareness of sustainable packaging choices is becoming a driving force in consumer purchasing decisions. As brand owners rethink their packaging strategies to align with current market realities and consumer preferences, paper-based packaging stands out as a natural choice.”

The Two Sides Packaging Preferences Survey 2020 was conducted by independent research firm Toluna.  Download the full report here.                                                        

*eMarketer, US Ecommerce, 2020

Member Spotlight: Sappi North America

Headquartered in Boston, Sappi North America (SNA) is an industry leader with more than 2,000 employees in the United States and Canada, and four mills with the capacity to produce 1.35 million metric tons of paper and packaging and 1.17 million metric tons of kraft, high-yield and dissolving pulp.

SNA has been a member of Two Sides since its beginning, and both organizations benefit greatly from this strong partnership. With its long-standing commitment to employee and product safety and its dedication to delivering products that meet customers’ needs for more sustainable solutions, SNA is an invaluable source of environmental expertise and thought leadership for Two Sides. With its global network and wide-ranging sustainability resources, Two Sides helps amplify Sappi’s voice in telling the great environmental story of print and paper products.

High on Sappi’s priority list is a continued commitment to productively engage in the circular economy through material waste reduction, product design for end of life, and carbon mitigation strategies. The company recently set ambitious new sustainability targets aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and has committed to the Science Based Targets initiative to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.


As part of his broader role in pursuing those targets, SNA Director of Sustainability Sandy Taft, who also serves on the Two Sides Board of Directors, is keenly focused on how to describe and promote the role that the forest products industry can play in carbon sequestration strategies in North America and globally, and views Two Sides as a valuable resource.

“Two Sides is an important advocate for the paper industry and one that Sappi is glad to support,” Taft says. “As a current Two Sides board member, I’ve been impressed with the organization’s dedication to creating an effective dialogue about the power of paper paired with their fact-based approach. The materials they develop often take scientifically complex ideas and make them accessible and easily digestible. For example, their robust social media content is available to members, and we use it at Sappi to raise awareness with our followers,” he explains. “Two Sides is a valuable contributor to the global conversation about the sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging.”

Across its businesses, SNA is helping to accelerate the transition to a bio-based, circular economy.  This includes unlocking the chemistry of trees to meet the challenges of a carbon-constrained world.  “In a warming world with increasingly scarce resources, developing sustainable solutions in not just our responsibility, it is an opportunity that Sappi is embracing,” Taft says.  “Trees are a renewable resource with enormous potential for broad-based advances that allow us to continue to sustainably deliver paper, packaging and other products that society needs while effectively addressing climate change.”

In addition to driving continuous improvement in the sustainability of its papermaking operations, Sappi is exploring alternative uses for wood fiber. By developing innovative new processes and biomaterials that extract more value from each tree, the company seeks to provide sustainable, low-carbon alternatives to materials commonly used today.  For example, the company’s new Symbio bio-composite product aims to replace traditional materials in auto components, thus reducing total vehicle weight and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of vehicle emissions.

Sappi North America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Sappi Limited (JSE), a global company headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with more than 12,000 employees and manufacturing operations on three continents in seven countries and customers in over 150 countries. For more information, visit www.sappi.com.

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