Corrugated industry significantly improves environmental performance

A new U.S. corrugated industry life cycle assessment (LCA) study shows a significant 32 percent reduction per unit in the industry's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 2006 and 2010.

By ·

A new U.S. corrugated industry life cycle assessment (LCA) study shows a significant 32 percent reduction per unit in the industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 2006 and 2010. Additionally, the industry improved in other environmental impact indicators. Effects of nutrient releases on receiving waters and soils (eutrophication) decreased by 22 percent and effects of particulate matter emissions (respiratory effects) decreased by 14 percent.

The peer-reviewed study, commissioned by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) and conducted by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), measures the environmental impacts of a 1 kg industry-average corrugated product manufactured in 2010 and shows substantial improvements over the industry-average product manufactured in 2006, as reported in the industry’s first baseline LCA.

The reduction in GHG emissions per unit is primarily attributed to the increased recovery for recycling of corrugated materials. The recovery rate for old corrugated containers (OCC) increased from 72 percent in 2006 to 85 percent in 2010. As more corrugated material is recovered, less goes to landfills, thereby reducing methane emissions.

Containerboard mills also helped reduce GHG emissions by decreasing the overall use of fossil fuels and switching to less carbon-intensive fuels like natural gas. 

Dennis Colley, executive director of the CPA, said, “We’re very pleased about our reduced greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental impact reductions, driven by our industry’s historic commitment to continuous improvement and environmental stewardship. We’ve been proactively improving on our environmental footprint for decades, and through the use of LCA, we’re able to document the results of our efforts.”

The study also examined the relative impacts of industry-average corrugated products (which contained 46 percent recycled fiber) and 100 percent recycled corrugated products made in 2010. Corrugated products can be made from 100 percent new fiber, 100 percent recycled fiber, or a blend of these fibers. All types of fiber have benefits and contribute to maintaining a sustainable corrugated packaging industry. The LCA showed that both the 100 percent recycled and industry-average corrugated products have environmental advantages in different impact categories. One is not better than the other across all environmental impact indicators, and the corrugated industry must maintain a supply of new fiber to augment those fibers that are recovered and used for production. The worldwide market needs both new and recycled fiber in order to produce the best quality of corrugated material and ensure a consistent and sustainable supply.

The LCA examined effects on seven environmental impact indicators: global warming potential (greenhouse gas emissions), eutrophication, acidification, smog, ozone depletion, respiratory effects, fossil fuel depletion; and four inventory indicators: water use, water consumption, renewable energy demand and non-renewable energy demand. It was conducted in accordance with ISO 14040/44 standards and guidelines for life cycle assessment studies and was subjected to review by a third-party critical review panel.

A detailed, LCA summary report is available for download on the Corrugated Packaging Alliance website (http://www.corrugated.org).


Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
The Internet of Things and the Modern Supply Chain
Learn today how the internet of things is transforming supply chain operations.
Download Today!
From the February 2017 Issue
As the new administration sends waves of uncertainly through the global trade community, this could be the best time ever for shippers to build an investment case for GTM. Here are five trends you need to watch if you’re about to put these savvy systems to work
Carrier Consolidation Keeps Shippers Guessing
Getting Value from the Cloud
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Advance your career with the fastest growing logistics certification – APICS CLTD
During this webcast presenters will give an overview of APICS and the new Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD) designation. Learn how the CLTD program can help you stay on top of current trends and advance your career.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
ASEAN Logistics: Building Collectively
While most of the world withdraws inward, Southeast Asia is practicing effective cooperation between...
2017 Rate Outlook: Will the pieces fall into place?
Trade and transport analysts see a turnaround in last year’s negative market outlook, but as...

Logistics Management’s Top Logistics News Stories 2016
From mergers and acquisitions to regulation changes, Logistics Management has compiled the most...
Making the TMS Decision: Ariens Finds Just the Right Fit
The third time is the charm for this U.S. manufacturer on the hunt for a third-party logistics (3PL)...