Paper Touted as the Responsible Package

At Pack Expo in Las Vegas last week the paper-based packaging industry launched "The Responsible Package," an industrywide campaign to promote the sustainable packaging solutions provided by paper-based products. The campaign is the first time  paper-based packaging companies have come together with a coordinated approach, explained Peter Heist, vice president of International Paper and chairman of the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA).

The campaign is made up of PPA, a joint initiative of AF&PA and the Paperboard Packaging Council, and is joined by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance, a joint initiative of the American Forest & Paper Association, the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters  and the Fibre Box Association.

The Responsible Package initiative supports paperboard, corrugated, and paper bag products. It will educate manufacturers about the paper-based packaging industry’s commitment to providing renewable, recyclable, and sustainable packaging that also is reliable and economically viable.

“Paper, paperboard, and corrugated are sustainable packaging solutions made from a renewable raw material and recycled at very high levels,” said Heist. “As manufacturers and consumers increasingly seek environmentally friendly products, The Responsible Package campaign will provide packagers with the tools they need to make decisions that meet their sustainability goals.”

Heist reported that paper recycling is at its highest levels ever: 57% of all paper used in the United States is now recovered for recycling. In addition, 1.7 million trees are planted each day by the paper-based industries, he said. “There are more trees today than 50 years ago.” He points to data from the Abundant Forests Alliance: “Historical trends indicate that the standing inventory (the volume of growing stock) of hardwood and softwood tree species in US forests has grown by 49 percent between 1953 and 2006.”

Paper-making companies also use some of the paper-manufacturing by-products as biofuel energy, such as bark and lignin. “Two-thirds of the energy our industry uses comes from such sources instead of from oil or gas,” Heist said. “And our water use is getting better as we look for ways to reduce, reuse or recycle it. We are also maintaining closed-loop processes for chemical use.”

Both recycled-content and virgin paper will be promoted during the multiyear campaign. “We won't be pitting one against the other,” said Heist. “Virgin and recovered fiber are complementary and there are reasons for both. Many products require the use of virgin materials, for instance, for either technical reasons or consistency.”

When asked whether the campaign would address any “paperless” movements, Heist acknowledged that people often suggest “going paperless because they think it is more environmentally friendly. However, paper is sustainable and renewable, and there is real value in paper.”

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