As our industry continues to innovate and incorporate recycled materials into our products, sustainability-minded consumers might assume that the higher the percentage of recycled material, the better or more sustainable the product. However, it might surprise you to learn that using 100% recycled materials in corrugated doesn’t always provide the same level of load-bearing protection, nor is it always the most “green.” There are two key factors to consider: performance and renewable energy.
To fulfill their primary function of protecting and safely transporting goods, boxes need to be performance-engineered for strength and durability.
Corrugated is the most-recycled material worldwide, but each time it’s repulped, the wood fibers become shorter and the material weaker. At a certain point (around 30-40% recycled material, depending on the product) the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and we start sacrificing the safety and integrity of our box to squeeze in a fraction more recycled material.
As a result, we aim to use corrugated material right at that “green tipping point”—approximately 30:70 recycled-to-virgin material—to maximize our products’ durability while minimizing our environmental impact.
2. Renewable Energy
Paper production is an energy-consuming process. Coastal Container’s suppliers use excess bark and sap from sustainable-yield forests to power their facilities with a 100% renewable-energy source.
In contrast, paper manufacturers that limit their raw materials to recycled materials lack the bark and sap for self-sustaining energy production, forcing them to source their energy elsewhere. Less than 20% of energy produced in the US in 2020 came from renewable sources.
Looking at the bigger picture, which includes energy sources, using a blend of recycled and sustainable-yield virgin materials can be and often is greener than a 100% recycled paper approach. Read more about our vision for Coastal Container’s future and environmental impact in our Sustainability Report.