Why don’t you make boxes from 100% recycled materials?

Posted in News, Sustainability
Last Updated: Last updated Apr 1, 2021

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.

1. Performance

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.

Performance is ensured through strict testing of our materials with industry quality standards.
Read more about our testing here.

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.

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