Cartonboard - Naturally Renewable

by Paul Tye - Date: 2008-10-28 - Word Count: 683 Share This!

An unfortunate perception of the print and packaging world is that it "eats trees"! In fact, of the world consumption of wood only 12% is actually used for the manufacture of paper and board, and of this, just one tenth is used for cartons. Over half the cartons used in Europe are manufactured using recovered fibres from waste paper.

In Europe over 90% of the wood needed by the paper and board industry comes from European forests, and responsible packaging producers, like Benson Group, ensure that their purchases are made from FSC and PEFC certified suppliers, which means that any new wood used has come from responsibly managed forests. Overall there are more trees planted than felled in Europe, and as forests absorb CO2 they combat greenhouse gases, and therefore have a positive effect with regard to climate change.

Cartonboard is easy to recycle. Cartons are simple to crush flat and separate for disposal. If, for any reason, they are not recycled, the vast majority are 100% biodegradable. Overall, however, it is not packaging that makes up the majority of landfill. Government statistics show that it is only 18% of household waste, and just 3% by weight and volume of packaging waste sent to landfill.

Records also indicate that the amount of used packaging sent to landfill and been in decline for the last ten years. Whilst innovative design has focused on using less material, nearly 60% of all packaging was recycled in 2005, including some 1 million tonnes of household materials. The average household generates some 3 t 4 kg of used packaging per week, and at least the same amount of wasted food.

It should also be born in mind that packaging prevents waste. According to World Health Organisation statistics, food wastage in the third world can be as high as 50%, whilst in developed economies as low as 3%. Much of this difference is due to good quality packaging. Under-packaging is ten times worse for the environment that the same amount of over-packaging, as ten times more energy and material resources go into the production of goods and food than into their packaging.

Putting packaging into perspective in terms of the energy consumed to create it, if a typical household turned its thermostat down by two degrees, or reduced its motor vehicle usage by just one mile per day, it would save as much energy as is used to make the packaging for a whole year's supply of goods.

Other Environmental Issues

Environmental issues are closely monitored throughout the Group. Progress is being made with regard to obtaining ISO 14001 for all businesses within the Group. The company's Bardon site was the first carton business in the country to eliminate benzophenone from inks and varnishes, and the company has taken significant steps to reduce the amount of alcohol in use in press fount solutions. The latest offset press to be employed on the shopfloor is running with just 0.2% of alcohol.

With certification for the provision of PEFC and FSC certified cartonboard stock, Benson Group is helping to ensure the use of sustainable resources for packaging production. FSC and PEFC are international associations that promote responsible forestry by providing proof that finished products contain only wood that has been gathered from responsibly managed sources. Print companies provide a major link in the chain for paper products. Customers can also carry this message through to the end user by having the appropriate FSC or PEFC logo reproduced on the packaging itself.

The Forestry Stewardship Council was established back in 1993, and is a non-profit making association responsible for some 22% of the 250 million hectares of forests represented by all certification schemes. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification scheme (PEFC) began in 1999 and covers some 51% of the forests covered by all certification schemes.

Whilst these certification schemes have a place in the market, the fact remains that cartonboard provides the most environmentally friendly form of packaging available, with the vast majority of board stocks 100% recyclable and compostable.

Paul Tye

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