Most boxes and cartons manufactured in Canada are now 100% recycled content, made completely from old boxes and other used paper material collected from the back of factories, supermarkets, office buildings, or from residential Blue Box programs.
Some 13 mills across Canada produce nothing but 100% recycled content board, according to PPEC’s latest Recycled Content Survey. The industry’s environmental council completes a survey every two years, and has been tracking recycled content since 1990.
There has been a significant increase in average recycled content over the years, from 47% back in 1990 to almost 80% today. Most Canadian packaging mills, though, now make a 100% recycled content product, that’s the way they were built. A few mills blend recycled material with wood residues (chips, shavings and sawdust left over from lumber operations), and three mills use wood residues or freshly-cut trees. When you add it up, the Canadian industry hardly uses any freshly-cut trees to make paper packaging at all. The notion that the industry reaches for a chainsaw every time it needs to make a new box or carton is a complete fabrication.
Any fresh trees that do get harvested for packaging purposes all come from commercial forests that have been independently certified as sustainably managed. Under provincial law, these forest areas must be successfully regenerated either through tree planting and direct seeding, or naturally. The harvest and regrowth of Canada’s commercial forest is currently in balance, according to Natural Resources Canada.
For more information on how recycled content is defined and measured, how it differs between packaging types, and its relationship to virgin material, see PPEC’s background report Understanding Recycled Content.