For recycling to happen, packaging waste must first be collected and sent to a mill. Waste arising during manufacture is relatively easy to collect, this is trimmed waste from cartonboard mills and from carton manufacturers. However, the bulk of cartonboard, along with all paper and board products, is spread throughout society and an infrastructure is required for its collection.
Attaining a high recycling rate depends on achieving a high collection rate! Strict discipline in separating carton packaging after use and delivering it to a recycling site is the first step towards securing a high recycling rate. European consumers understand the importance of collecting and separating valuable cardboard. This has led to a recycling rate of 82% for fibre based packaging (Source: Eurostat 2018). This is significantly higher than any other packaging material. The industry is moving the bar even higher by targeting a recycling rate of 90% by 2030.
More than 60 million tonnes of used paper are collected in Europe each year. The main sources of paper collection are 50% from trade and industry, 40% from households, and 10% from offices. The banning of plastic bags by most retailers in Europe will increase the 40% share of paper collection from households, while industrial sources are already at collection capacity. So it is even more important that we are all very disciplined in separating our fibre based packaging materials and making those high quality fibres available to the respective recycling streams. For the cartonboard and carton industry, recycled fibres are an indispensable source of raw materials, supporting the industry’s resource efficiency.
Fibres of cartonboard materials are a valuable resource for new cartonboard production. The latest research results from TU Graz/Austria conclude that cartonboard fibres can be recycled at least 25 times. Any packaging that consumers send for recycling will have at least 25 lives left after its first use.