The European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO), a non-profit industry association, reports that the CO2 footprint for corrugated board is currently 491 kg CO2 equivalent (e/t), a substantial reduction over the 538 kg CO2e/t generated in its 2018 assessment.

This outcome demonstrates the European corrugated industry’s and its paper suppliers’ ongoing efforts to lessen their environmental effect. The data for paper and board production and conversion into corrugated boxes came from the FEFCO and CCB-organized 2021 European Database for Corrugated Board Life Cycle Studies (Cepi ContainerBoard).

The methodology for calculating CO2 emissions is based on the CEPI’s (Confederation of European Paper Industries) “Framework for Carbon Footprints for Paper and Board Products, April 2017” and the CITPA’s (International Confederation of Paper & Board Converters in Europe) “Guidelines for calculating carbon footprints for paper-based packaging, March 2018.”

Peer review that is independent

The CEPI and CITPA frameworks were subjected to an independent peer review by ifeu – the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg, Germany – and were found to be compatible with the requirements of the World Resources Institute’s “Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard” of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

The evaluation is based on a renewable raw material and is comprised of the most recycled paper and board packaging. Recycled paper and board are utilized to create new corrugated packaging, which has an average recycling percentage of 88 percent.

FEFCO and CEPI recently released a life cycle analysis (LCA) that included data collection from a significant proportion of the sector, representing 84 percent of total annual kraftliner and semi-chemical fluting production, 74 percent of testliner and recycled fluting production, and 73 percent of total annual corrugated board production on average.

One example is the recycled material used to make new corrugated packaging, which will have an average of 88 percent recycled content by 2021.

The report shows further improvements in environmental parameters, including an 18% reduction in wood consumption, a 4% reduction in recovered paper consumption, indicating continuous improvements to reduce resource use, a 5% decrease in fossil fuel consumption, a 28% reduction in nitrous oxide emissions at the production sites, and a 33% reduction in sulfur oxide emissions at the production sites.

According to FEFCO and CCB, they are dedicated to continue to share LCA data in a transparent and consistent manner to assist the development of industry practices and the sector’s overall environmental performance, proving the industry’s alignment with the EU Green Deal.

The water connection

We recently met with Paul Foulkes Arellano, a circularity educator with consulting company Circuthon, who said that, despite apparent success by the pulp and paper sector, decarbonization initiatives are not the whole story.

Water loss in pulp and paper manufacturing amounts to around 54 cubic meters per metric ton of final product on average. As industry shifts away from virgin plastic, a significant worldwide water issue might erupt in the near future.

He emphasizes that LCAs that indicate a decrease in emissions do not always reflect the total environmental effect, and that business must therefore turn to other options, such as agro-waste, which uses up to 99 percent less water, instead of depending on tree-based fibers.

Source: Packaging Insights

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