Canadian paper packaging hits 80% recycled mark

The average recycled content in two grades of Canadian paper packaging exceeded 80% in 2022.

That’s what the industry advocacy group the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC) found in its annual Recycled Content survey, which is conducted to determine the average recycled content contained in the major paper packaging grades made by Canadian mills.

The 2022 results show that the average recycled content of domestic shipments for the top two major packaging grades was 80.2%. The average recycled content for domestic shipments of boxboard was 86.2%, while the average recycled content for domestic shipments of containerboard was 81%.

Canadian mills shipped 2.97 tonnes of paper packaging in 2022, of which 1.79 tonnes was domestic. The recycled content of the domestic shipments was 1.43 million tonnes.

Recycled content is generally defined in two ways: pre-consumer and post-consumer. Both are
recognized by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and by the Competition Bureau’s now
archived Environmental claims: A guide for industry and advertisers Canada’s “Guidelines” for
environmental labelling. PPEC does not distinguish between the two.

The survey was conducted with 11 Canadian companies that operate 17 containerboard mills. It was launched in 1990 and is conducted every two years to determine the average recycled content contained in the three major paper-packaging grades manufactured in Canada, as represented by PPEC’s membership: containerboard, boxboard, and kraft paper.

“These latest results continue to validate the success of our industry’s circular economy in collecting and recycling paper-based packaging and ensuring they are remade into new products again and again,” said Chris Bartlett, chair of PPEC.

“With a recycled content rate of over 80% and confirmation that our boxboard and containerboard made in Canada is primarily recycled content fibres, we are proud of the progress our industry has and continues to make.”

Compared to PPEC’s 2020 survey results, this represents a slight decline in the average recycled
content, though it continues to confirm that the feedstock used for the production of boxboard and
containerboard made in Canada is primarily recycled content fibres.

In Canada, mills produce the raw material used to make paper-based packaging – and the majority use 100% recycled content – which is sent to a converter, where it is made into packaging products. Once used by the customer, it is recycled, making its way back to the mill to be remade into new paper packaging products.

“As an industry, we are committed to environmental sustainability and waste minimization. This survey reminds us of the importance of recycling and that every action taken can make a big impact,” says Rachel Kagan, executive director, PPEC.

“Together, industry and consumers alike are helping to make a positive environmental difference.”

PPEC is the national association representing the environmental interests of the Canadian paper packaging industry. Its members include mills and packaging converters operating across Canada who produce the three major packaging grades: containerboard (used to make corrugated cardboard boxes), boxboard (used to make boxboard cartons), and kraft paper (used to make paper bags and sacs).