No virgin fibre, no recycled paper
As consumers step up their demands for more sustainable products, many customers are eager to use recycled paperboard, which plays a key role in creating a circular economy. The good news is that virgin paperboard is part of that same sustainable production chain, playing an equally important role in closing the loop. That’s because a steady source of virgin fibre is necessary to maintain the paper recycling process. In other words, without the continued production of virgin fibre, there would be no recycled paper.
Produced from renewable material
Virgin paperboard is produced from wood, a renewable raw material. It is essentially produced from the wood remnants or leftovers from the production of sawn timber used for example in construction and furniture.
Recycled up to seven times
The recycling rate for paper is high compared to other packaging materials like plastic.
More than 70 per cent of all paper produced in Europe is recycled into new paper products (Confederation of European Paper Industries).
The European Union aims to increase packaging recycling even further by 2030.
Recycled paperboard would not exist without a steady input of virgin fibre. This is because recycled fibre eventually reaches its end of life. Therefore, the whole recycling process relies on virgin fibre to keep it going. There is a limit as to how many times paper and paperboard can be recycled as its strength and stiffness diminish with each cycle. Generally speaking, it can be recycled three to seven times depending on the application.
Used fibres turns into energy
Eventually it becomes more useful to turn previously recycled cellulose fibres into energy, through incineration or composting, rather than trying to recycle the fibres once more.
Recycled material in paperboard tends to lower the protective properties. To compensate for this, the grammage of the board needs to be increased by as much as 40 per cent to reach a high level of protection and sturdiness. This means that recycled paperboard weighs more than virgin fibre paperboard, which leads to lower efficiency in the printing, packaging, filling and logistical processes.
Higher level of purity
Mixed waste paper is not usually de-inked for paperboard manufacture and may therefore retain traces of inks, adhesives and other residues. Together, this can give the recycled paperboard a greyish colour.
Virgin fibre is generally a better option than recycled fibre for food packaging due to contamination issues. Virgin fibre paperboard has a higher level of purity. Government regulatory bodies in many countries do not allow recycled paperboard in direct contact with foodstuffs. This is for hygienic reasons and the risk of contamination from ink residues.
Consistant and sustainable
High quality virgin fibre paperboard behaves consistently throughout conversion and the production process. This leads to fewer production stoppages due to damaged or unattractive packages, helping filling lines to run faster and more efficiently.
Sweden’s virgin fibre comes from sustainable forests. The country has been successfully managing and replanting its forests ever since the Swedish Forestry Act was enacted in 1903. This environmental law states that anyone harvesting a forest must regenerate it, and hence there is no deforestation in Sweden. Similar processes also exists today in other European countries, for example the UK.