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

Paper, Climate Change and Common Sense

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released updated projections about the effects of human activity on our planet, warning that inaction to immediately address climate risk will yield dire consequences. The IPCC’s conclusions and recommendations will no doubt be the subject of continuing debate, but there are three things that most people agree on: the climate is warming, humans play a role, and we need to do something about it.

However, without broad-based public understanding of how the environment works, there is an unfortunate tendency to believe that all manufacturing industries and processes must be part of the problem, a misconception that some in the ENGO community and the news media are only too happy to exploit. They push the thoroughly unscientific narrative that paper contributes massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, a byproduct of tree harvesting, manufacturing processes and paper waste. Far from mitigating climate change, it’s a narrative that could stifle an industry that is, in reality, a part of the solution.

Mitigating climate change demands a common-sense approach that is grounded in sound science, embraces proven strategies, and invests in driving continuous improvement. This approach, in a nutshell, is why the North America paper and paper-based packaging industry is a climate mitigation leader.

Paper’s Carbon Footprint

A look across the life cycle of paper shows that its carbon footprint can be divided into three basic elements: carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions and avoided emissions. Each of these elements is influenced by important characteristics that distinguish paper from other products: it’s made from a renewable resource that stores carbon, it’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral energy, and it’s easily recyclable.

Sustainable Forestry and Carbon Sequestration

 Sustainable forest management, the cornerstone of the North American paper and paper-based packaging industry, helps increase the ability of forests to sequester carbon while also protecting and conserving other forest values like soil, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. An infinitely renewable resource, healthy forests sequester carbon by capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and transforming it into biomass through photosynthesis. The carbon stored in forests helps to offset releases of CO2 into the atmosphere from sources like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation (the permanent loss of trees).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that sustainable forest management practices resulted in net carbon sequestration each year between 1990 and 2018. As reported in the agency’s Inventory of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Sinks, U.S. forests and wood products captured and stored roughly 12% of all carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions in 2018. CO2e is a measure of the global warming potential of all GHGs compared to CO2. The Canadian government reports that forestlands captured and stored around 19% of the country’s total CO2e emissions in 2018.

Planting new trees and improving forest health through thinning and prescribed burning are some of the ways to increase the uptake of forest carbon in the long run. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the perpetual cycle of harvesting and regenerating forests can also result in net carbon sequestration in products made from wood and in new forest growth. In its 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment, the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization reported that net forest area in the U.S. increased by approximately 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, while net forest area in Canada remained stable at around 857 million acres during those same years.

The Paper Industry and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The North American paper and paper-based packaging industry was among the first industries to take voluntary action to reduce GHG emissions. Between 2011 and 2019, the U.S. industry reduced greenhouse gas emissions from 44.2 million metric tons to 35.2 million metric tons or 20%, according to the US EPA. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) reports that between 2007 and 2017 the Canadian industry reduced GHG emissions from 22 million metric tons to 13.1 million metric tons or 40%.

These reductions are attributed to the predominant use of carbon-neutral, wood-based biofuel (which accounts on average for around 60% of energy generation at North American mills), the switch from coal and oil to less carbon intensive fuels such as natural gas, and investment in equipment and process enhancements that improved overall energy efficiency. Contrary to the claim that the North America paper and paper-based packaging industry is a major contributor to GHG emissions, EPA and NRCan data show that U.S. and Canadian producers account for only 0.5% of total GHGs in their respective countries. A continuing increase in the use of biomass energy at North American mills has the potential to reduce GHG emissions even further.

Some in the ENGO community argue that because biomass releases just as much CO2 in the atmosphere as fossil fuels, it isn’t really carbon neutral. But the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other experts disagree.  As DOE explains: “Burning biomass releases about the same amount of carbon dioxide as burning fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels release carbon dioxide captured by photosynthesis millions of years ago – an essentially “new” greenhouse gas. Biomass, on the other hand, releases carbon dioxide that is largely balanced by the carbon dioxide captured in its own growth.”

In other words, biomass contains carbon that was only recently removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis, and that same carbon is returned to the atmosphere as part of the natural carbon cycle when it is burned to generate energy. This inherent property exists whether or not trees are regrown. Sustainable forest management practices help make sure that biofuel use does not outpace forest regrowth. The IPCC concludes that, “Regardless of how carbon neutrality is defined and calculated, the use of forest biomass produced under conditions where forest carbon stocks are stable or increasing always yields long-term mitigation benefits.”

Avoided Emissions: Paper’s Recycling Success Story

When paper products are sent to landfills, they release GHGs as they decompose. When they are recycled, these GHG emissions are avoided. That’s a significant environmental benefit when you consider that around two-thirds of all paper and paper-based packaging is recovered for recycling in the U.S. and Canada, more than plastics, glass and metals combined. When you single out corrugated cardboard, the recovery rate jumps to nearly 90%. The US EPA reports that the amount of paper and paper-based packaging that was recycled instead of going to landfills lowered U.S. GHG emissions by 155 million metric tons of CO2e in 2018, an amount equivalent to taking over 33 million cars off the road for an entire year.

The North American paper industry continues to invest billions of dollars in technology to increase the types of paper products that can be recycled as well as infrastructure investments that expand recycling capacity. For example, U.S. producers have announced or planned $4.5 billion in manufacturing infrastructure investments by 2023, more than $2.5 million per day. The industry also is focused on “recyclable by design” innovations that help brands, retailers and other end users develop fully recyclable paper packaging by eliminating non-recyclable elements.

Paper producers’ commitment to sustainable forest management, the use of renewable, carbon neutral energy, and strong support and investment in recycling has transformed the circularity of paper products from vision to reality, and will help to drive further GHG emission reductions.

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

 

 

 

Has the Pandemic Changed the Way U.S. Consumers Access News and Information?

New Two Sides survey shows U.S. consumer reading habits have changed, but print on paper remains a valued and sustainable part of everyday life

CHICAGO – May 25, 2021 – Print media has seen significant disruption during the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns changing the way we access and consume news and information. But even as familiarity with and use of online media has increased, print on paper remains a widely used and highly valued resource. This according to a new survey, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” commissioned by non-profit organization Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.

“Print and digital communications are often compared as an either/or proposition to suggest one is better than the other,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie, “but our research shows that both play an important part in today’s information-driven economy. Rather than adopt a one-size-fits all digital communications strategy, savvy news organizations and other businesses will continue to offer consumers a choice and in doing so, help to assure that those who are unwilling or unable to access digital information are not disadvantaged.”

As a result of pandemic-related lockdowns, traditional news brands have successfully developed or enhanced their digital platforms, leading many to turn to online media as a primary source of news and information. But it cannot be assumed that everyone who moved online for news did so by choice or that all who moved online will remain there as restrictions on work, travel and leisure are lifted. While the Two Sides survey showed that 58% of consumers intend to read more news online in the future, this percentage has not changed since 2019.  And although print newspaper readership has taken a hit during the pandemic, 49% of consumers say they would be concerned if printed news were to disappear.

It’s important to note that for many Americans, printed communication is not a choice – it’s a necessity.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimates that some 21 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet service,1 but other organizations, including Microsoft,2 report estimates as high as 157 million. In addition, many who have access to internet service cannot afford it. Consumers in rural areas without broadband infrastructure and many among our most vulnerable populations – older Americans, those with disabilities and low-income individuals –  depend solely on printed newspapers, magazines, books, bills and statements.

In addition, digital communication is not universally welcomed. Nearly three in 10 consumers (29%) prefer to read newspapers in print, and that number jumps to more than four in 10 for those over age 55.  44% of consumers say they gain a better understanding of a story when reading news in print versus online. When it comes to magazines, 38% of consumers prefer to read in print, with percentages climbing to 49% for those over 55 and 63% for those over 65. When all age groups are included, 44% prefer to read books in print.

As might be expected, the survey shows that younger adults, those aged 18 to 24 in particular, prefer to read all types of media online. But even among these younger consumers, 28% prefer to receive and read  personal information from doctors and hospitals in print, 27% prefer to read books in print and 23% prefer to receive bills and statements from service providers in print.

“It’s clear that digital communication is changing the way we receive news and information,” Rowzie says, “but Americans’ growing dependence on digital communication brings its own concerns, which in turn presents opportunities for print media to hold and potentially reclaim a  bigger slice of the consumer media pie. Our survey reveals that 52% of consumers believe they spend too much time on their electronic devices, and just over half are concerned that the overuse of digital devices may be damaging their health. And as headlines about online security breaches become a common occurrence, 64% say they are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged.”

Consumers also are increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of their communication choices, but there are a lot of misconceptions in the marketplace about the sustainability of both digital communication and print on paper.  “Our survey shows that 67% of consumers believe electronic communication is better for the environment that print on paper,” Rowzie says.  “But the miniaturization of today’s electronic devices and the ‘invisible’ nature of digital infrastructure and cloud-based services cause many to vastly underestimate the environmental footprint of electronic communication, which includes the mining of raw materials like iron, copper and rare earth minerals to produce electronic devices, the massive amounts of predominately fossil fuel energy used to manufacture and operate those devices and the server farms that support them, and the enormous and growing amount of e-waste generated.

“Like all manufactured products, paper has an environmental footprint, too,” Rowzie explains. “But in the U.S., it is a material whose industry grows and regrows its own raw material (wood fiber from trees), derives two-thirds of the power to drive its processes from renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel, cleans and returns more than 90% of the water it uses to the environment and recycles more than 95% of the chemicals it uses to turn trees into pulp. In addition, with a 66% recovery rate, paper is the most recycled material in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  That’s a powerful sustainability story the electronics industry cannot match.”

For more facts about the environmental sustainability of print and paper products, visit https://twosidesna.org/two-sides-fact-sheet

About Two Sides North America, Inc.

Two Side North America 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.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America, Inc.

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

  Federal Communications Commission, “2019 Broadband Deployment Report,” 2019, https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/2019-broadband-deployment-report
 Microsoft, “Microsoft Airband: An Update on Connecting Rural America,” 2019, https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2020/03/05/update-connecting-rural-america/

What Consumers Don’t Know About the Sustainability of Paper Products

New Two Sides Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Underestimate Print and Paper Products’ Unique Contributions to a Circular Economy 

Download the press release here.

CHICAGO – April 22, 2021 – As U.S. consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of the products they use every day, there remains a wide gap between perception and reality when it comes to the sustainability of paper products. This according to a new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.  The survey, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” sought to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

“More and more consumers are factoring environmental impacts into their purchasing decisions, but all too often those decisions are based on pop culture myths and sensational, headline-driven journalism rather than fact,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “As attention turns to developing a more sustainable, circular economy, the paper and paper-based packaging industry has a great, fact-based environmental story to tell: Paper is one the few products that can already claim to have a truly circular life cycle.”

What’s happening to the size of U.S. forest area?

Paper use is often blamed for forest loss, and 60% of those surveyed believe U.S. forests are shrinking. The fact: U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment. That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Contrary to the popular belief 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.

What percentage of paper is recycled?

Paper recycling in the United States is a hands down environmental success story. But according to the survey, only 11% of consumers believe the U.S. recycling rate exceeds 60% and nearly a quarter believe it’s less that 20%.  The fact: More than two-thirds of all paper and paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recycled, and more than 90% of corrugated cardboard boxes is recycled according to the American Forest and Paper Association. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper is the most recycled material in the country, compared to plastics at 8.4%, glass at 26.6% and metals at 33.3%.

Is electronic communication more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication?

As the pandemic forced meetings, events and day-to-day business to online communication and consumers increasingly relied on the internet for news and information, 67% of those surveyed believe that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication. While consumers enjoy the convenience and the ability to work from home that electronic communication affords, they overlook the environmental impact of digital communication.

The facts: The EPA reports that the pulp and paper industry accounts for only 1.2% of U.S. industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and only 0.5% of total U.S. GHG emissions – which shouldn’t be surprising since two-thirds of the energy used to power U.S. paper industry operations is generated using renewable, carbon neutral biomass. In contrast, the energy consumption required for digital technologies is increasing 9% each year, and the share of digital technology in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could rise to 8% by 2025 according to The Shift Project, a carbon transition think tank.  And compared to paper’s recycling success story, the United States generates approximately 7 million metric tons of e-waste annually, but only 15% of that waste is recycled, according to the 2020 Global E-waste Monitor.

“The life cycle of paper products is circular by nature,” Rowzie explains. “The raw material used to make it is perpetually regrown, the energy used to manufacture it is generated using mostly carbon-neutral biofuel, and the circle is completed as used paper is recycled into new products at a higher rate than any other material.  Even so, our survey shows that misconceptions about the sustainability of paper products are commonplace. It’s just these types of misconceptions that Two Sides was created to correct.  We believe consumers have the right to make purchasing choices based on data and hard facts, free from pop mythology and misinformation.”

For more facts about the environmental sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging, visit www.twosidesna.org.

About Two Sides North America, Inc.

Two Side North America 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.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America, Inc.

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

 

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

 

Two Sides North America Announces Leadership Transition

Phil Riebel to Retire as Two Sides North America President

Two Sides Vice President Kathi Rowzie to Become President

CHICAGO – March 30, 2021 – After starting Two Sides North America nearly a decade ago and building it into the highly successful organization it is today, Phil Riebel will retire as president of the organization effective April 1. Kathi Rowzie, who has been running the day-to-day operations of Two Sides since last March, will become president.

“Everyone who has worked with Phil over the years knows him as a trusted colleague and passionate advocate for the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging,” said Jeff Hester, chairman of the Two Sides North America board of directors. “Our industry has benefitted enormously from his efforts to build Two Sides into an organization whose voice is recognized and respected across the paper value chain and among many of North America’s leading corporations.  As Phil moves on from his Two Sides role to pursue other opportunities within the industry, I want to thank him on behalf of the board of directors for his dedicated service to our Two Sides members and our industry. Though Phil is stepping down, he will remain associated with Two Sides’ mission as a valuable advocate in our strategic efforts.”

“We also want to express our enthusiastic support for Kathi as she steps into her expanded role,” said Bill Rojack, vice chairman of the Two Sides board of directors. “She brings a unique combination of paper industry, sustainability and communications expertise that will help us continue to build on Two Sides’ success.”

Rowzie’s career spans more than 30 years in corporate and consulting roles with Fortune 500 companies, including extensive experience in the paper industry and with industry customers. A longtime advocate of Two Sides, her association goes back to the organization’s beginning, when as a consultant, she was instrumental in helping launch the Two Sides website, educational tools and marketing materials.

“Kathi continues to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives that will be critically important as increasing consumer, government and ENGO attention to the sustainability of print and paper products makes Two Sides’ work more important than ever,” Hester added. “The board looks forward to working with her as we seek to take Two Sides to the next level.”

Note: The phone number for Two Sides North America has changed to 937-999-7729.  The email address will remain info@twosidesna.org.

Photos of Riebel and Rowzie may be downloaded here.

“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Break It”

The Lifecycle of Paper Products is Already Circular

In so many fundamental ways, environmental sustainability is baked into the nature of the paper and paper-based packaging industry – from the ability and financial incentive to regrow its primary raw material to the biodegradability of its products. As the call for the circularity of product lifecycles is growing louder, paper has always had a head start. And the industry’s strong support and investment in recycling has transformed the circularity of paper products from vision to reality. At a time when there is growing alarm about the low recycled rates of other materials, paper recycling is a stark exception.

While the recycling rate of other materials is as low as the single digits – for example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports the recycling rate for plastics is just 8.7%  – 66% of all paper products in the United States and 70% in Canada are being recycled. This is near the theoretical maximum recycling rate when items like hygiene products and long-held items such as archived records and books are excluded. For those grades that can be almost entirely recovered and reused, such as corrugated cardboard boxes, recycling rates are higher than 90%.

This level of success is only possible because the paper industry and consumers interact in the free market that drives the paper lifecycle. Since the early 90s, manufacturers have voluntarily responded to the market’s need for greater supplies of recovered fiber with massive voluntary investment in capital-intensive machinery and transport. And according to the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), U.S. pulp and packaging producers are committed to investing an additional $4.1 billion in manufacturing infrastructure between 2019 and 2023. Now, approximately 80% of all U.S. paper mills use some recovered fiber to make everything from paper-based packaging and printing papers to newspaper and tissue. The continuing investment in recycling technology is allowing paper manufacturers to reach further into the wastepaper stream to use fiber that was previously unrecoverable.

In fact, the AF&PA’s just-released Design Guidance for Recyclability tackles one of the remaining challenges to even higher recycling rates for paper-based packaging. The Guide provides a clear understanding of how packaging gets recycled in paper mills and how various non-fiber elements (inks, coatings, adhesives, polymer windows, et. al) affect the recyclability of paper-based packaging. It’s intended to help consumer products companies and their manufacturing supply chain partners more effectively design and produce packaging that meets growing customer demand for recyclability.

At the other end of the lifecycle, millions of households and tens of thousands of North America’s businesses and municipalities willingly participate in what amounts to a continent-wide partnership with industry, driven by paper’s ease of recovery and decades of local investment in the collection infrastructure. A 2014 survey found that 96% of Americans have access to community curbside or drop-off paper recycling programs, or both.  Access numbers for Canadians are in the 94% to 96% range.

However, in a blind rush to address other materials that have never come close to the recycling rates of paper, especially those like plastics that don’t readily degrade in the environment and that often contain toxic substances, some state governments are considering actions that make no environmental or economic sense.  Their latest prescription is a legislative mandate for all materials, including paper, called extended producer responsibility (EPR).

EPR shifts financial responsibility for recycling from the existing network of producers and communities to the manufacturers alone, with no evidence that it can or would improve recycling rates, lower costs, or extend the life of materials any longer than it is already.  In fact, recent experience – for example, the EPR program in British Columbia – suggests EPR leads to higher systemwide costs that get passed on to consumers with less net tonnage diverted from the waste stream.

EPR would take a wrecking ball to the market forces that drive the success of the U.S. paper recycling enterprise, and for no purpose. Unlike the other materials that EPR is supposed to address, paper is not toxic, it does not contribute to ocean and other surface water waste, and it doesn’t take long to degrade in the environment. Yet EPR would target paper products with the same mandates and fees as those other materials, disrupting the economics and overwhelming success of paper recycling.

Compared to the efficiency of established markets, repeated experience teaches us that artificial government mandates are, at best, a testament to confused objectives, unintended consequences, and wasted money and effort. EPR does nothing to make paper recycling more circular than it already is. It is the well-established paper recycling network that is already getting the job done, delivering proven environmental benefits, and making itself ever more circular from year to year.

Two Sides Fact Sheet Corrects Common Environmental Misconceptions About the Canadian Paper and Paper-based Packaging Industry

The Canadian Paper and Paper-based Packaging industry is among the most sustainable industries in the world, but there are still significant gaps between public perceptions and actual fact when it comes to related environmental topics such as forestry, greenhouse gas emissions and recycling. For example, a recent Two Sides survey found that Canadian consumers rank pulp and paper products as a leading cause of deforestation – which they are not.

In Two Sides’ just-released fact sheet on the sustainability of the Canadian Paper and Paper-based Packaging industry, you’ll find a host of facts from credible third-party sources that set the record straight.

For example:

  • Deforestation is defined as the conversion of forest to other land uses whether human-induced or not. The definition specifically excludes areas where trees have been removed as a result of harvesting or logging and where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of silvicultural [sustainable forest management] measures. – UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020
  • At the end of 2019, Canada had over 168 million hectares of independently certified forest land (to either CSA®, SFI® or FSC®). Nearly half of Canada’s forests are certified and 37% of all certified forests worldwide are in Canada, the largest area of any country. – Natural Resources Canada, 2020
  • The forest sector’s ability to generate its own electricity, largely from bioenergy, has reduced its reliance on fossil fuels. Between 2007 and 2017, the forest sector reduced energy use by 24% and total fossil GHG emissions (direct emissions plus indirect emissions from purchased electricity) by 40%. – Natural Resources Canada, 2020
  • Canada recycles almost 70% of its paper and cardboard, making it among the top paper recycling countries in the world. – Forest Products Association of Canada, 2020

Two Sides members are permitted to co-brand the fact sheet with their own company logos.  For more information on co-branding, please contact info@twosidesna.org.

Download the fact sheet here.

Paper Packaging – The Natural Choice

New Packaging Facts Booklet Shares the Great Sustainability Story of Paper-based Packaging

The paper-based packaging industry has long been committed to continuous environmental performance improvement and to transparently conveying the environmental impacts of its operations and products. With growing consumer, business and political interest in packaging and its role in the transition to a more sustainable, circular economy, the opportunities to communicate the inherently sustainable benefits of paper-based packaging with straightforward, credible and relatable information are greater than ever before.

Paper Packaging – The Natural Choice provides 7 powerful reasons why paper-based packaging is the natural choice for brands, retailers and consumers, and offers a wide range of supporting facts from credible third-party sources. By fostering a better understanding of the industry’s environmental credentials, Two Sides seeks to ensure that paper products, through their myriad uses, remain an essential part of everyday life.

Two Sides members are permitted to co-brand Paper Packaging – The Natural Choice with their company logos to supplement their own sustainability communications. A print-ready version of the booklet along with co-branding instructions can be found in the General Resources folder on the Members Only website portal.  For help accessing the Members Only portal, contact info@twosidesna.org.

Download Paper Packaging – The Natural Choice here.

Give the Holiday Gift that Keeps on Giving: Recycle!

The holidays are here!  And as always, paper will play an important part in our celebrations – from shopping bags, gift boxes and decorations to greeting cards and cardboard shipping boxes. And after the holidays are over, you can give a gift that keeps on giving by recycling. The paper and paper-based packaging you recycle this holiday season extends the life of a valuable natural resource (wood fiber from trees), prevents waste from going to landfills and avoids the release of greenhouse gas emissions that occur when paper decomposes in landfills. And who knows, it might just end up as part of someone else’s holiday celebration next year!

Nearly all Americans and Canadians have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs, and both Americans and Canadians are clearly committed to recycling – not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. The U.S. recovers 66% of its paper and paperboard packaging and 92% of corrugated cardboard for recycling annually.  Canada recovers nearly 70% of its paper and paper-based packaging and 85% of corrugated cardboard.

Even so, the wide array of holiday-related paper items in our homes can confuse even the most dedicated recycler. To help clear up any confusion about what should and should not go into your recycling bin, here are some tips from the American Forest and Paper Association.

Cardboard boxes. The cardboard boxes you received on your doorstep from shopping online are designed to be recycled. Remove any non-paper packing materials (like air pillows or foam peanuts), break boxes down flat, keep them dry and clean and place them in the recycling bin. You don’t need to remove shipping labels or tape. Even if your box is dented, beat up, ripped or even a little dirty from the shipping process, it can still be recycled.

Greeting cards and envelopes.  Paper greeting cards and envelopes can be put in the recycling bin. Don’t worry about removing the stamp from the envelope – the recycling process takes care of that for you. But if your cards include glitter, metallic accents, plastic or other materials that can’t be removed, they should be placed in the trash.

Paper gift bags.  Paper gift bags can be put in the recycling bin. However, gift bags made with plastic, foil-coated paper, fabric or other materials will need to go in the trash can if you can’t reuse them. If your paper gift bag has non-paper handles, glitter or beads, those things need to be removed before placing the bag in the recycling bin.

Wrapping paper.  Wrapping made from paper that does not have a plastic coating can be recycled in many municipalities. Foil, cellophane and plastic-coated wrapping paper, as well as paper with glitter, cannot be recycled.

Tissue paper.  Tissue paper can typically be recycled as long as it’s not metallic or glittery.

Ribbons and bows.  Unfortunately, ribbons and bows are not accepted in recycling bins. If you can’t reuse them, put them in the trash.

If you’re unsure of your community’s recycling guidelines, BeRecycled.org offers a nationwide lookup system that can lead you to the right spot for your town’s recycling rules.

If you’ve checked your local guidelines and are still unsure about recycling a particular item, throw it out. Putting items in your recycling bin that can’t be recycled can jam recycling equipment and contaminate recyclable paper that otherwise could be made into new products.

For more information, check out our fact sheet on Paper Recovery and Recycling.

SHARE BECOME A MEMBER SUBSCRIBE