Recognizing the growing interest in increasing recycled content in packaging as a sustainability strategy,GreenBlue’s( Sustainable Packaging Coalition has released a report on the opportunities and challenges for using recycled fiber in packaging.

Guidelines for Recycled Content in Paper and Paperboard Packaging outlines opportunities to use recycled content in 20 common retail packaging applications, including shopping and take-out bags, cereal boxes, toothbrush blister packs, software boxes, and coffee canisters. 

The report was completed in collaboration with packaging designers and engineers, as well as pulp and paper mill operations, and it is a companion to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s 2010 report, Guidelines for Increasing Post Consumer Recycled Content in Plastic Packaging.

“This is a valuable resource for the packaging community because it provides specific, ambitious guidance on how to meet recycled content objectives for paper packaging,” says Paul Kearns, VP Marketing - Performance Packaging of Exopack, LLC, who was part of the research team. “It will help retail packaging buyers and consumer packaged goods companies better communicate with packaging converters by setting realistic parameters for what’s technically possible, which will help drive more informed and aggressive use of recycled content in paper packaging.”

The report provides reference charts that summarize the following considerations and opportunities for each packaging application:
  • Performance requirements

  • Regulatory compliance requirements

  • Technical/operational factors

  • Aesthetic considerations

  • Material availability

  • Cost
As a number of factors contribute to the feasibility of using recycled content in paper packaging-including the quality and consistency of recovered fiber, the types of additives used, and the treatment of the fiber during the conversion process-the report ranks the greatest opportunities to use recycled content in the packaging applications discussed. 

“Our goal with this report was to provide actionable guidance that companies can begin utilizing today to meet their goals for using recycled content and preserving valuable resources,” says GreenBlue Senior Fellow Katherine O’Dea, who led the research project and authored the report.