Eco-Conscious Economy: Consumer Data Reveals Young Shoppers Prioritize Sustainability

Generation Z and Millennial consumers are more likely to pay a premium for products that are legitimately sustainable in some way, from materials to packaging to delivery. The third annual Consumer Sustainability Survey from Blue Yonder, a digital supply chain platform, confirms that sustainability remains a priority for all consumers. However, younger shoppers are more definitive and consistent in their choices, with 85% of Gen Z and 84% of Millennials reporting that sustainability considerations are important to them. 

“It’s especially promising that so many respondents are willing to spend more for sustainable products, given that price concerns, exacerbated by the ongoing challenge of inflation, have marked conversations around consumer behavior over the last year,” said Saskia van Gendt, Blue Yonder’s chief sustainability officer, in a statement. “Their willingness to spend more should send a clear message to brands and retailers that investing in sustainable solutions and practices is worthwhile, not only for the planet but also for maintaining consumer loyalty and trust.” 

78% of U.S.-based poll respondents said that sustainability concerns are very or somewhat important to them when choosing to buy a product or shop at a retailer. And 70% of consumers said they have shopped at a retailer promoting their products as sustainable at least once in the past six months. Almost half (47%) reported that their interest in shopping sustainably increased in the last year, and 40% said they would pay up to an additional 5%, and 25% said they would pay an additional 10% or more. 

Skepticism about sustainability claims remains high

Interestingly, consumer skepticism remains high regarding sustainability marketing and messaging. If consumers are going to pay more, they need to verify claims for themselves. 

Nearly half (48%) of respondents said they can only “sometimes” trust a brand’s sustainability claims, depending on its message, brand reputation and history. More than one-third (35%) of respondents said they do not trust brands’ claims, citing the need for their own additional research (21%) and the belief that brands tout sustainability regardless of whether it aligns with their actions (14%). 

An ESW report released in April said that US consumers are less sustainability-minded than they were just one year ago. The overall score dropped from 51 on the index to 49, and lagging behind the global mean of 55. However, US Millennials (59) and Gen Z (57) scored above the global mean, whereas Gen X (50), and Boomers (35) scored lower. 

Globally, consumer trust in sustainability claims is low, which could be adding to lowered interest in sustainability overall. According to The Blue Yonder survey, 70% reported shopping sustainably in the last year, vs. 74% in 2023. The ESW numbers reveal that, globally, more than half of the consumers surveyed (55%) said they are more aware of greenwashing than they were a year ago, and 27% said they considered a brand’s environmental transparency record when making a purchase. 

Consumer trust and truth in advertising are key to a healthy economy, which is why greenwashing is so harmful. If consumers can’t discern which companies are truly engaged in ethical environmentally-friendly commerce, they won’t support the industries making the most positive impact. To that end, Two Sides has engaged with more than 300 North American companies to combat misinformation by changing or removing misleading environmental claims used to promote electronic services over paper-based communications. Globally, the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has persuaded more than 1,180 companies, government agencies and other organizations to remove statements that are unsubstantiated. 

Greener packaging is a priority

According to the Blue Yonder survey, 47% of consumers said they would be likely or very likely to pay more for greener shipping options such as lower carbon footprint delivery and sustainable packaging. 61% of consumers said using recycled content or recycled packaging was the most important environmental practice a retailer or brand should adopt.  

According to TSNA’s own research released in 2023, in addition to expressing an overall preference for paper-based packaging, 56% of consumers prefer that items ordered online be delivered in paper packaging, up from 52% in 2021. 50% say they are actively taking steps to increase their use of paper-based packaging, up from 41%. 47% would avoid shopping with a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce its use of non-recyclable packaging, up from 39%. 

Overall, the data underscores consistent consumer behavior toward sustainability, particularly among younger generations. Generation Z and Millennials’ willingness to pay a premium for sustainable products sends a clear message to brands and retailers about the importance of investing in sustainable solutions. Greener options and the use of recyclable materials have become increasingly pivotal, with a significant portion of consumers willing to pay more for sustainable options.  

While skepticism persists regarding sustainability claims, consumers prioritize transparency and ethical practices, highlighting the necessity for truthful advertising. Ultimately, fostering consumer trust and aligning with environmentally friendly practices not only benefits the planet but also strengthens brand loyalty, thus contributing to a healthier economy.

FSEA Releases Study on the Recycling of Fiber-Based Materials with Transfer Metallic Decoration

The Foil & Specialty Effects Association (FSEA) has announced the release of a new report detailing the results from a newly completed study on the recycling of fiber-based materials with transfer metallic decoration. The new study now available through FSEA has taken a further step to test transfer metallic decorated fiber-based materials and how the materials are sorted by Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) throughout the U.S. and North America. Through extensive testing at the Van Dyk Technology Center, the study demonstrates that fiber-based transfer metallic decorated materials are recyclable and are currently being sorted by Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to be included in the recycling stream.

Read more and request a copy of the new study at FSEA.com

 

From Plastic to Paper: The Eco-Conscious Evolution of North American Packaging Trends

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the packaging industry. First in the UK and Europe, and now US and Canadian brands are moving towards paper-based packaging solutions. This transition reflects a growing corporate commitment to environmental sustainability, increased regulations and penalties for using plastic, and a desire to meet consumer demand for packaging that is both sustainable and easier to recycle, knowing it is not going into landfills.

All of these motivators drive a growing movement to support a more circular economy, which is one based on the reuse and regeneration of materials or products, especially as a means of sustainably continuing production.

Environmental Consciousness Drives Change

One of the primary reasons behind the shift towards paper-based packaging is a heightened awareness of environmental issues, particularly the impact of plastic pollution on the planet. While plastic packaging is convenient and versatile, it poses significant environmental challenges. Plastic is made from non-renewable petroleum-based materials – it is non-biodegradable, contributes to litter and marine pollution, is difficult to recycle and is harmful to humans and wildlife.

Paper-based packaging offers several environmental benefits, making it an attractive alternative to plastic. Unlike plastic, paper is renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable, making it a more sustainable option from a lifecycle perspective. Additionally, advancements in paper packaging technology have led to the development of innovative products that offer the same functionality and protection as traditional plastic packaging, further driving the adoption of paper-based materials.

Consumer Preferences Lead the Way

Consumer preferences play a crucial role in shaping the packaging choices made by brands. Surveys have consistently shown that most consumers prefer paper-based packaging over plastic for its perceived environmental benefits. This shift in consumer sentiment has prompted brands to reevaluate their packaging strategies and prioritize materials that are perceived as more eco-friendly. Additionally, market trends indicate a significant increase in demand for paper-based packaging, driven by concerns about plastic pollution and a desire for more sustainable alternatives.

A survey commissioned by Two Sides North America revealed that 55% of US consumers would buy more from brands and retailers who remove plastic from their packaging, up from 49% in 2021. Half said they are actively taking steps to increase their use of paper packaging, up from 41% over the past two years, and 47% said they would consider avoiding a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging, up from 39% in 2021. In addition, disposal decision fatigue is real–consumers preferred paper/cardboard packaging for being home-compostable (59%) and easier to recycle (43%).

Corporate sustainability goals driven by consumer demand are a primary motivator in the shift from plastic to paper. Wayne Towle, sales manager at fiber-packaging supplier Planet Paper Box Group, recently told Packaging Digest, “All the major players in all the major CPG companies have some form of sustainability goals factored into their business model. It is becoming more of a necessity for companies to do that.”

Government Regulations Hasten Shift

Recent data from pulp and paper business intelligence company Fisher International cites several market factors driving the switch to paper packaging, including legislation in the U.S., Canada, and across the globe.

“Certain single-use plastics (e.g., drinking straws, coffee stirrers, plastic bottles, plates, cups, utensils, shopping bags) have been identified as leading contributors to plastic pollution and are the target of most legislation.”

Twenty-three states in the US have some form of plastic bag legislation, and several cities have banned plastic straws. In Canada, the Single-Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations (SUPPR) were introduced as a larger comprehensive plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Big Brands Make the Switch

Several brands based or prominent in North America have embraced paper-based packaging as part of their commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. These include L’Oreal, Zappos, Pringles, Absolute, Apple, Nestle, Samsung, and Amazon. Although these are U.S.-based business giants, packaging innovation has often been initiated in Europe due to stricter penalties and regulations around plastic-based packaging. But North American roll-outs have picked up steam.

Iconic fast-food chain McDonald’s announced plans to phase in more sustainable, recycled, and recyclable alternatives to their current packaging, including paper-based materials. According to the company, which serves 69 million people worldwide each year, McDonald’s has set a goal of sourcing 100% of its primary guest packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources and expanding the reduction and recycling of guest packaging by the end of 2025.

An Amazon facility in Ohio uses machine learning to customize box sizes to eliminate plastic packaging fillers. The research was launched in Washington State’s Amazon innovation center, and upgrades will roll out in North America this year. Technology like this could skyrocket the use of paper and cardboard packaging across industries.

Paper Fits the Bill

In so many ways, paper has become the ideal packaging material, offering businesses, manufacturers and consumers a simplified experience that cuts cost and time and is naturally sustainable.

Consumer preference. Consumers prefer goods packaged in materials that are easy to recycle or safe to compost. They don’t want the inconvenience of stripping off labels or driving to a retail store to recycle plastic bags and clamshell containers.

Circular economy. Paper is a bedrock of a circular economy as it promotes the reuse and regeneration of packaging. Paper can be recycled five to seven times, on average, before fibers become unusable. Paper is biodegradable and compostable. In fact, clean cardboard adds valuable dry materials to the composting process.

Sustainable forestry. The US paper industry promotes sustainable forestry and depends on sustainable forest growth to provide a reliable wood fiber supply. By providing a dependable market for responsibly grown fiber, the paper industry encourages landowners to continue managing their forestland instead of selling it for development or other non-forest uses. In the United States, we grow more trees than we harvest, and US forests are a renewable natural resource and are not shrinking. Net forest area in the United States increased by approximately 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020 – an area equivalent to approximately 1,200 NFL football fields every day.

In Canada, all areas harvested on public land must be reforested through replanting or natural regeneration, and about 90% of Canada’s forests are on public land. Canada leads the world in third-party sustainable forest certification.

Energy consumption. According to the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), purchased energy is the third highest operating cost for the paper and wood products industry, motivating the industry to increase energy efficiency and use less energy overall. In 2020, AF&PA member pulp and paper mills self-generated 58% of the electricity needed to power their mills. They surpassed their collective goal for energy efficiency by reducing purchased energy by more than 13% between 2005 and 2020. Among the sustainability goals outlined in AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planet 2030, one is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.

Similar efforts are being made in Canada to become more energy efficient. Most of the energy used at Canadian pulp and paper mills is generated using renewable, carbon-neutral biomass. Since the early 1990s, the Canadian forest sector has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 70%.

Choosing Paper

The shift towards paper-based packaging among US and Canadian brands reflects consumers, governments, and corporations’ broadening commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. By choosing paper, these brands are not only meeting consumer demand for more eco-friendly products but also contributing to the preservation of the planet for future generations.

A Critical Balance: Virgin and Recycled Fibers Partners in Printing Paper Production

The balance of virgin and recycled fibers in paper and paper-based packaging production is a critical and ongoing consideration by consumers. While the pursuit of environmental friendliness–or the appearance of it–drives the push towards more recycled fibers, virgin fibers are essential in crafting high-quality, durable, and sustainable paper products.

Capitalizing on Complementary Strengths: Both virgin and recycled fibers bring unique strengths to the table. Recycled fibers contribute to the circular economy, reducing the need for fresh raw materials. However, each time paper is recycled, the fibers get shorter and weaker, eventually degrading and unable to bond into new paper. On the other hand, virgin fibers offer essential qualities like strength, durability and brightness. The longevity and performance of the final paper or package are ensured by continually introducing new fiber into the system.

Reducing Environmental Impact: Determining a proper mix of virgin and recycled fibers is a nuanced process. While some argue for exclusively recycled content to “save trees,” the demand for wood fiber is also a driving force in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems, as sustainably managed forests produce two times the tree volumes vs what is harvested. Strong market demand for sustainably sourced paper products provides a powerful financial incentive for landowners to continue to manage their land responsibly and keep it forested instead of converting or selling it for non-forest uses.

Well-managed forests are, by their nature, sustainable, and both virgin and recycled paper offer alternatives to electronic forms of communication that have their own environmental impact, such as e-waste and energy use. A balanced approach acknowledges the need for both sustainable forest management alongside recycling efforts.

Virgin vs Recyled Fibers in Print Paper

Meeting Business Needs: Choosing whether to use recycled or virgin paper typically comes down to the type of use. Most recycled paper contains a proportion of virgin fiber to ensure the quality of the end product. Breaking and separating fibers during recycling impacts the paper’s durability and surface area, and recycled paper products can only be “downcycled,” which means a corrugated box cannot be made into bright white paper, but higher quality paper can be made into recycled packaging grades. Many companies rely on using strong, bright, clean papers from virgin fibers to convey important messaging, provide strength, or be more hygienic. The wrong mix of recycled and virgin fibers will affect the ability to run smoothly through a press or printer and take up ink and other coatings. Ink saturation, registration and brightness may all be affected, creating a different type of end product depending upon the intended use.

Virgin vs Recyled Fibers in Print Paper

Reducing Environmental Footprint through Innovation: Paper is the most reliably recycled material, recovering nearly 68% of all the paper used in the U.S. in 2022 year and almost 94% of all cardboard.

The print and paper industry has contributed nearly $7 billion in recycling infrastructure, with approximately 80% of U.S. paper and packaging mills using some recovered paper fibers in their products. Technological advancements in the paper industry have played a crucial role in maximizing the potential of both virgin and recycled fibers. Innovations in processing techniques ensure the efficient utilization of recycled fibers and other materials without compromising the quality of the final product. These advancements contribute to a more sustainable and circular approach to paper production.

Increasing Consumer Awareness: Educating consumers about the benefits of a balanced mix of virgin and recycled fibers and the role the paper industry plays in environmental stewardship is essential. Two Sides North America researches and publishes an important collection of myths and facts to help consumers and businesses stay informed. Understanding that responsible paper production involves a thoughtful combination of these fibers can empower consumers to make environmentally conscious choices that truly support sustainable practices within the industry.

The union of virgin and recycled fibers in paper and paper-based packaging production is not just a compromise; it’s a strategic alliance embodying the principles of sustainability, quality, and versatility. By striking the right balance, the paper industry can contribute significantly to a circular economy while meeting the diverse needs of consumers and businesses alike.

Cardboard Comes Out On Top

Consumer Preference and Industry Efforts Pave the Way for Corrugated Boxes

As consumers increasingly voice their environmental concerns, industries worldwide are actively seeking sustainable alternatives to reduce their carbon footprint. Not surprisingly, corrugated cardboard packaging has emerged as an environmentally sustainable choice, boasting benefits that other packaging materials simply can’t match. Reports and surveys, including a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) recently published by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) and the 2023 US Trend Tracker Survey commissioned by Two Sides North America, shed light on the environmental impact of cardboard packaging and illustrate why it is fast becoming the preferred choice of brands and consumers around the globe.

Published in October 2023, the 2020 Life Cycle Assessment of U.S. Average Corrugated Product found that the corrugated packaging industry has achieved substantial reductions in the environmental impacts of a typical corrugated cardboard box. 

Specifically, the LCA shows a 50% per unit reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2006 and 2020, tackling the most urgent and predominant causes of climate change. Meaningful reductions were also achieved in ozone depletion (13%), energy usage (13%), water usage (18%), acid rain (41%), smog (44%), respiratory effects (54%), and eutrophication, which leads to algae blooms and dead zones in bodies of water (30%).

The industry achieved this progress through energy improvements, the creation of a strong recycling infrastructure, sustainably managed forests, and a commitment to continuous environmental improvement. The industry continues to shift to cleaner burning fuel, has increased its participation in a greener U.S. electric grid, and made investments in energy efficiency. 

cardboard boxes

Raw Materials

Cardboard packaging is a standout choice in terms of raw material sustainability. Using wood fiber from purpose-grown, sustainably managed forests ensures that the extraction process is both responsible and renewable. The LCA reveals that sustainable forestry practices, when paired with efficient management, contribute to the overall favorable environmental profile of cardboard packaging.

The fresh wood fiber used to manufacture cardboard, which is continually renewed in sustainably managed forests, aids in the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while recycling old corrugated cardboard avoids carbon dioxide and methane emissions from landfills. This combination of fresh and recycled fibers in cardboard production maximizes fiber reuse and enables circularity. 

Manufacturing Processes

Significant advances in manufacturing technology and processes have increased efficiency and decreased energy consumption in cardboard production, leading to reduced environmental impacts. In addition, the industry’s proactive approach to water recycling and conservation, along with the increased use of renewable energy, further reduces cardboard’s environmental footprint. 

Transportation and Distribution

Cardboard’s lightweight nature contributes to lower transportation costs and emissions compared to heavier packaging materials. Lighter weights translate into lower fuel consumption during transportation, thereby decreasing the overall carbon footprint. This is particularly crucial in a globalized economy where goods are transported over long distances.

End-of-Life Considerations

Cardboard’s recyclability is a critical factor in its circular life cycle, and the corrugated industry has enabled increasingly higher recycling rates with billions of dollars in voluntary infrastructure investment over the past 30 years.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cardboard is the most recycled packaging material in the United States. The American Forest and Paper Association reports that the recycling rate for cardboard boxes was more than 93% in 2022.  

Consumer Trends and Attitudes: Insights from the 2023 US Trend Tracker Survey

In January 2023, Two Sides North America commissioned its biennial Trend Tracker Survey to better understand changing consumer preferences, perceptions and attitudes toward print, paper and paper-based packaging. The survey, conducted by international research firm Toluna,  showed a growing awareness among U.S. consumers about the environmental impacts of packaging materials and a preference for sustainable packaging. 

The survey findings reveal that consumers prefer products with paper or cardboard packaging for various reasons, including its ease of recycling and home composting. Half of consumers believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment than other types of packaging, including plastic, glass and metal. In addition to expressing an overall preference for paper-based packaging, 56% of consumers prefer that items ordered online be delivered in paper packaging, up from 52% in 2021. 50% say they are actively taking steps to increase their use of paper-based packaging, up from 41%. 47% would avoid shopping with a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce its use of non-recyclable packaging, up from 39%.

Environmental Misconceptions

Despite the expanding body of scientific evidence supporting the inherent sustainability of paper-based packaging and consumers’ efforts to make sustainable choices, many misconceptions about cardboard and its effects on the environment remain. You can help set the record straight by arming yourself with the facts. To learn more, visit www.twosidesna.org/mythsandfacts.

The Circularity of Paper: Recycling Closes the Circle

Over the last three decades, the U.S. paper industry’s deep-rooted commitment and voluntary investment of billions of dollars in recycling infrastructure have transformed the circularity of paper products from vision to reality – something no other industry has been able to achieve. At a time when there’s growing alarm about the low recycled rates of other materials, paper recycling is a clear exception.

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90 Million More Consumers Now Safeguarded from Anti-Paper Greenwashing

Two Sides North America Anti-Greenwashing Campaign Persuades 21 Leading Companies to Remove Unsubstantiated Environmental Claims in 1H23

Since its inception, the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of paper-related greenwashing in the United States and Canada, and its engagement with large utilities, banks, insurers and other organizations during the first half of 2023 has added to this success.

During the first six months of 2023, 21 additional companies representing approximately 90 million customers have removed greenwashing messages such as “Go green, Go paperless” and  “Go paperless to help protect the environment” from their marketing communications.

“In addition to misleading consumers, these types of unsubstantiated environmental claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”

That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has preserved more than $300 million in annual revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign is working hard to change that.”

You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of greenwashing, please email them as a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

For more facts about the sustainability of print and paper products, please visit www.twosidesna.org/mythsandfacts.

# # #

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE HERE.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

E: info@twosidesna.org

P: 937-999-7729

 

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

DAYTON, Ohio, June 26, 2023 –  If you recently made a purchase online, you’re not alone. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that retail e-commerce sales topped $272 billion in the first quarter of 2023, up 7.8% from the same period last year. Along with this continuing growth in online purchases comes an increasing  awareness of the materials used to package and ship products, and the impact these 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, including all environmental attributes, with half of respondents saying paper/cardboard is better for the environment than other types of packaging. Consumers also preferred paper/cardboard packaging for being home compostable (59%) and easier to recycle (43%).

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, and only one in 10 respondents believes 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 55% of consumers would buy more from brands and retailers who remove plastic from their packaging, up from 49% in 2021. 50% said they are actively taking steps to increase their use of paper packaging, up from 41% over the past two years. 47% said they would consider avoiding a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging, up from 39% in 2021.

“As the call for circular product life cycles grows louder, paper has always had a head start,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “The paper industry’s longstanding and continuing investment in recycling infrastructure, support of community recycling programs and consumer education on what and how to recycle have transformed the circularity of paper-based 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.”

68% of paper and paper-based packaging in the United States gets recovered and recycled into new products, and that jumps to more than 91% for corrugated cardboard. In comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection reports that plastics, glass and metals are recycled at just 9%, 25% and 34%, respectively.

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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Download the press release here.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

 

40 Million More Consumers Now Safeguarded from Anti-paper Greenwashing

Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign Kicks off 2023 with Big Wins

Since its inception, the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of paper-related greenwashing in the United States and Canada – and engagement with large utilities, banks and insurers in January and February has set the pace for millions more in 2023.

So far this year, seven additional companies representing 40 million customers have removed  “go green, go paperless,” “go paperless, protect the environment” and similar claims from their marketing communications.

“In addition to misleading consumers, these types of unsubstantiated environmental claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector,” says Two Side North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”

That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has annually preserved more than $300 million in revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”

You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of greenwashing, please email them as a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

 

 

Paper or Plastic? In a Circular Economy, the Answer is Clear

By Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

In today’s industrial marketplace, the concept of a circular economy is finally inching beyond theoretical ideals to real-world applications that will make our planet healthier and more sustainable. But becoming truly circular doesn’t come easy or cheap. It’s a challenge that requires intent, investment and innovation. The paper industry figured this out decades ago, and it has been at the leading edge of circularity ever since.

In fact, paper manufacturing exemplifies the very definition of circularity – industrial processes and economic activities that are 1) restorative or regenerative by design, 2) enable resources used to maintain their highest value for as long as possible, and 3) aim to eliminate waste through the superior design of materials, products and systems. Most alternatives don’t even come close. Take plastics, for example.

Plastic packaging is made from a variety of plastic resins. These include polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soft drink and water bottles, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk and water jugs, film products (including bags and sacks) made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and other containers and packaging (including clamshells, trays, caps, lids, egg cartons, loose fill, produce baskets, coatings and closures) made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP) and other resins (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). All of these resins are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, namely natural gas, feedstocks derived from natural gas processing, and feedstocks derived from crude oil refining (U.S. Energy Information Administration).

Single-use plastics also are incredibly energy-intensive to produce. In fact, plastic production accounts for more than 3% of total U.S. energy consumption and generates large amounts of carbon pollution (U.S. Department of Energy).

Plastics are a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. solid waste stream and, critical to any discussion of circularity, very little of it gets recycled (U.S. EPA). Drawing on the most recent EPA data available and last year’s plastic-waste exports, a new report published by environmental organizations Beyond Plastics and The Last Beach Cleanup estimates that Americans recycled only 5% to 6% of their plastics, down from the 8.7% reported by the EPA in 2018. But the real figure could be even lower, the report said, given factors such as the plastic waste collected for recycling that is instead sent to cement kilns and burned. The report states that, “Despite the stark failure of plastics recycling, the plastics, packaging and products industries have waged a decades-long misinformation campaign to perpetuate the myth that plastic is recyclable.”

“Plastics recycling does not work, it never will work, and no amount of false advertising will change that,” Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics and former EPA regional administrator, said in a press release.

“There is no circular economy for plastics,” added Jan Dell, founder of The Last Beach Cleanup. “Plastics and products companies co-opted the success of other materials recycling and America’s desire to recycle to create the myth that plastic is recyclable.”

The life cycle of paper tells a different story.

Paper products are manufactured using an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and re-grown in sustainably managed forests. Thanks in great part to the sustainable forestry practices and third-party forest certification advanced by the paper industry, net U.S. forest area increased around 18 million acres over the past 30 years (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization).

The paper manufacturing process uses mostly renewable, carbon-neutral energy generated from biomass which, when burned, recycles biogenic carbon (carbon absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in trees) back into the environment. This fact, combined with investments in energy efficiency and process improvements helped the U.S. paper industry reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per ton of product produced by 24.1% between 2005 and 2020 (American Forest and Paper Association). According to the U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, the pulp and paper industry is not a major contributor to climate change. In 2020, the industry was responsible for 0.6% of total CO2e emissions, compared to 0.5% in 2019. The industry’s actual emissions were slightly lower in 2020, but increased as a percentage of total emissions, which decreased 11% due to the reduction in transportation-related fossil fuel emissions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water used in the manufacturing process at a typical U.S. paper mill is recycled up to 10 times. Then it’s cleaned to meet strict state and federal water quality standards and most of it, around 90%, is returned to its source. About 1% remains in the manufactured paper products, and the rest evaporates back into the environment (National Council on Air and Stream Improvement, NCASI). And mills that produce kraft pulp have highly efficient recovery systems that capture and recycle about 97% of pulping chemicals (NCASI).

While all of these unique environmental characteristics make paper arguably one of the most sustainable products on earth, it’s the paper industry’s investment in recycling infrastructure that makes the paper life cycle truly circular. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. industry has voluntarily bankrolled billions of dollars in recycling infrastructure, including $5 billion in investments announced or planned between 2019 and 2024. Today, 94% of Americans have access to a community paper recycling program, and 79% have access to residential/curbside recycling programs, this according to a comprehensive national study commissioned by AF&PA in 2021.

Because paper recycling is accessible and easy, U.S. businesses and consumers have embraced it in a big way. With a recycling rate of 68% (AF&PA), paper is the most recycled material in the United States (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), and that number jumps to a remarkable 91.4% for cardboard packaging (AF&PA).

Click here for even more facts about paper’s contributions to a more sustainable, circular economy.

 

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