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Design guide builds on paper recycling ‘success story’

The American Forest & Paper Association released  the “Design Guidance for Recyclability”. This new tool is meant to help packaging designers and brands meet their recyclability goals.

The guide provides data on how certain non-fibre elements, such as coatings and additives, impact the recyclability of paper-based packaging. ‘Paper recycling is a circular economy success story. Increasingly, consumers are seeking more sustainable packaging, and as a result, brands are challenged to add more recyclable packaging to their portfolio,’ says association president and ceo Heidi Brock.

‘Combining our industry’s track record on paper recycling – meeting or exceeding a 63% recycling rate since 2009 – along with AF&PA’s industry data and statistics, this guide will be a true asset to those seeking to innovate around sustainable packaging. I am confident that a deeper understanding, as to the complexities brands and packaging designers face in balancing design and performance with recyclability, will further advance paper recycling innovation.’

The findings in the report are the result of an AF&PA member survey of company mills in a range of sectors in the United States and Canada. The survey had a 75% response rate. In total, data for 86 mills was reported.

The study included corrugated packaging, bleached and unbleached paperboard cartons, carrier stock cartons, Kraft paper bags, multiwall shipping sacks and molded fibre containers. The study examined numerous non-fibre elements including inks and dyes, adhesives, tapes and labels, coatings and barriers, metals and plastics, foils, wet strength, and non-tree fibres.

Getting easier to recycle

The AF&PA study showed that non-fibre elements may present a recycling “challenge” when they slow down the mill’s pulping process, plug screening systems or leave residue on finished paper or paperboard.

However, Brock underlines that innovations in packaging design and materials, as well as improvements in recycling technology, have made these treatments easier to recycle than historically. Being a “challenge” does not mean “not recyclable”. In fact, each non-fibre element applied to each kind of packaging was rated by various mills as “not a challenge at all”.

In addition to data about the impact non-fibre elements have on packaging recyclability, the report includes resources about the recycling process, standards and testing facilities and insights from mills on specific non-fibre elements.

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