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Recycled content for paper packaging stays over 80% at Canadian mills, survey finds

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In 2022, Canadian mill packaging shipments totalled close to 2.9 million tonnes, a slight decline from 3.3 million tonnes in 2020, when online shopping during the pandemic led to record shipments. Photo Credit: agnormark, stock.adobe.com

A new survey that tracks Canada’s use of recycled content in paper packaging shows an average domestic recycled content rate of 80.2% for 2022. The average recycled content rate has steadily increased from 47% back in 1990, when the first survey launched, but the latest rate is a slight decline from the 2020 figure.

The Recycled Content survey report is managed by The Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC), the national association representing the environmental interests of the Canadian paper packaging industry. It uses data from 11 companies operating 17 containerboard mills that represent more than 90% of the Canadian sector. The majority are located in Eastern Canada, with eight mills located in Québec, seven in Ontario, and the last two in Manitoba and New Brunswick. 

The biennial survey also found that total domestic packaging shipments in 2022 for the three major paper packaging grades totalled 1.7 million tonnes, and of that, over 1.4 million tonnes constituted recycled content. The average recycled content for domestic shipments of boxboard was 86.2%, while the average for domestic shipments of containerboard was 81%. 

“These latest results continue to validate the success of our industry’s circular economy in collecting and recycling paper-based packaging and ensuring they are remade into new products again and again,” announced Chris Bartlett, PPEC chair, in a statement. “With a recycled content rate of over 80% and confirmation that our boxboard and containerboard made in Canada is primarily recycled content fibres, we are proud of the progress our industry has and continues to make.”

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In 2022, Canadian mill packaging shipments totalled close to 2.9 million tonnes, a slight decline from 3.3 million tonnes in 2020, when online shopping during the pandemic led to record shipments.

The survey results cover both pre-consumer and post-consumer content.

In 2020, the medium corrugated category had an average recycled content of 76%, and, in 2022, it decreased to about 63%.

“Supply of recycled paper is impacted by the quality of available materials and price,” the survey’s report speculated about the decrease. 

There are data limitations concerning the recycled content of kraft paper made in Canada, according to the PPEC. The surveyed containerboard mills that manufacture kraft paper in Canada use virgin fibres by way of sawmill residues and trees in their production.

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