05262022Thu
Last updateThu, 26 May 2022 11am
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It's official: cardboard can be recycled at least 25 times

A new university study dispels the myth of a limited number of recycling cycles for wood fibre-based packaging.

Wood fibre-based packaging materials - paper, cardboard, paperboard and folding cartons - can be recycled over 25 times with little or no loss of material integrity, according to the latest independent research.

The 2021 study, conducted by the Graz University of Technology in Austria, recycled folding boxboard several times to determine what, if any, impact could be expected on the material's mechanical properties, including its strength and resistance to pressure. "In this study, no negative influence on the mechanical properties in question could be demonstrated. The swelling capacity of the fibre also showed no negative trend," the university reports.

Winfried Mühling, General Manager of Pro Carton, the European Association of the Cartonboard and Folding Carton Industry, emphasised: "The results decisively dispel the widespread myth that packaging made of wood fibre can only be recycled four to seven times before it loses its integrity. They prove that the wood fibres used for paper and board are much more resilient than previously thought."

"Rene Eckhart, leading scientist at TU Graz and head of the study, believes that the limit for recycling paper, cardboard and paperboard is determined more by the stock preparation process and the collection and recycling rate achieved," Mühling added.

The TU Graz study once again underlines the important contribution of cardboard to the circular economy and its role in improving the sustainability of companies and brands. The current recycling rate for paper and board packaging in Europe is around 84.2%[1] and the European cartonboard industry has set a target to increase this to 90% by 2030. Cartonboard is also biodegradable, a process commonly referred to as "organic recycling".

The TU Graz report also highlights the environmental benefits of increasing the number of recycling cycles. "The more often the same packaging can be recycled, the more positive its impact on the environment," the study says.

Winfried Mühling added: "To keep our circular business model running, we always need a healthy mix of virgin fibres and recycled material. Some customers have specific product requirements that only allow virgin fibres and need, for example, packaging for direct contact with moist or fatty foods such as chocolate. Other examples are luxury packaging with specific specifications for 'whiteness' or 'stiffness' of the material, for which only virgin fibres are used."

"It is crucial for our industry to collect, sort and recycle all fibre materials on the market. Fresh fibres and recycled fibres are equally important for the circular economy, and this is something many brands and retailers are also keen to support," concludes Mühling.
www.procarton.com

 

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