Carton Council of Canada: Strategies to Support Increased Carton Recovery Rates

Industry News

For almost ten years, the Carton Council of Canada (CCC) has worked to deliver long-term solutions to help increase carton recovery and recycling in Canada.

Isabelle Faucher, Managing Director of Carton Council of CanadaSince CCC’s inception in 2010, Canada has gone from a 41 per cent national recovery rate for cartons to 60 per cent in 2018. CCC members (including carton manufacturers Elopak, Evergreen Packaging, Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc) continue to believe we can do better. As a result, in 2019, CCC members set an ambition to see the carton recovery rate grow to 70 per cent by 2025.

Achieving this ambition requires all members of the recycling value chain, including sorting facilities, municipalities, waste management companies and other stakeholders to work together to maximize the efficiency of the recycling process.

In particular, three areas of focus can have a significant impact on the rate of food and beverage carton recovery across the country: working and supporting Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), the ongoing education of consumers, and continuing to develop end markets for used cartons.

Certainly, supporting innovation and the adoption of new technology among material recovery facilities (MRFs) in an effort to optimize positive carton sorting efforts will have a significant impact on the rate of food and beverage carton recovery across the country.

CCC also allocates a significant proportion of its resources to consumer education. Engaging Canadians in an ongoing dialogue about the importance and potential impact of carton recycling encourages positive changes in public attitudes and behaviours related to waste and recycling. As a result, CCC regularly invests in both carton-recycling public awareness campaigns and educational programs and recycling initiatives in schools across the country. 

Finally, traditionally there have been a limited number of end market options for cartons. Today, however, advancements in sorting technology; the ability to process cartons into different types of paper or tissue as well as green building products; and an increasing number of purchasing agents, support evolving carton markets around the world.

The fact is cartons offer tremendous value as a recycled commodity. The long, bleached, virgin fibres from which cartons are made are a highly sought-after resource in the manufacturing of new paper-based products. And while consumption of sorted office paper (SOP) decreases significantly across North America, cartons are an excellent alternative feedstock. Cartons also trade at a lower value than SOP.

The fact that cartons are made up of more than one material does not mean that they are difficult to recycle. In fact, cartons are made mainly from paper. Through a hydrapulping process (think “giant blender”), mills such as Great Lakes Tissue and Sustana Fiber in the U.S. can break cartons down into their component parts: paper, plastic and aluminum. The pulp is used to make paper products such as paper towels, tissue and office paper. The residual plastic and aluminum can be sent on for further recycling, such as producing ceiling tiles or wallboard, or can be used for energy to fuel the paper mill.

Overall, using recycled cartons to make new paper-based products decreases the strain on natural resources and provides a market for recycled goods. Working towards the 2025 70 per cent ambition, CCC continues to explore solutions, in collaboration with mills in both the US and Canada, to ensure that the value of recycled cartons is not only recognized but optimized.

Source: Carton Council of Canada (CCC)