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Paperboard Packaging Products

Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the Issues? | What are the Options?  

Did you know...Making a ton of paper products from recycled paper saves up to 17 trees and uses 50% less water. (Energy Information Administration website, 2015)

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

When developing bid documents for paperboard packaging (e.g. corrugated cardboard, cartons, boxboard etc), request the following:

  • Must contain minimum 30% post-consumper waste content and be certified by one of the following:
    • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified
    • Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
    • Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
  • If paperboard packaging products are certified by any of the above certifications, the certification logo must be present on the product.
  • If the natural colour of the packaging is acceptable, request unbleached paperboard packaging. If bleaching is required, request vendors to outline the bleaching method and show preference for process chlorine free (PCF).
  • Vendor must use low-VOC inks

Other things to consider

To minimize greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste production, the vendor should be encouraged to develop sustainable delivery strategies:

  1. Product delivery consolidations
  2. Efficient logistics and route planning
  3. No idling of vehicles
  4. Use of fuel efficient delivery vehicle.

The Manitoba Climate and Green Plan Act supports reducing environmental and social impacts, as well as enhancing operations through sustainable procurement of goods and services.


What are the issues?

In addition to direct impacts on the forest from timber harvesting, producing paper products at a mill uses large amounts of energy and water. The paper industry uses over 80,000 litres of fresh water and over 35 gigajoules of energy to produce a ton of paper product. That’s enough water for about 1,000 loads of laundry and about enough energy to fill-up 70 propane cylinders for your barbeque.

Forests are signficant carbon sinks. Like all plants, they remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen which we need to breath. Therefore, deforestation and harvesting activties can have a large impact on the ability of forests to store carbon. Improper forestry management practices result in an increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

During the manufacturing process, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere and into our water bodies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that making paper from recycled materials results in 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution. This means that every ton of recycled paper keeps almost 60 pounds of pollutants out of the atmosphere that would have been produced if the paper had been manufactured from virgin resources.


What are the options?

Luckily, through the efforts of the purchaser, a business can significantly reduce the environmental impacts on the forest and at the paper mill. 

Decisions purchasers often make that significantly help the environment are:

  • Purchasing paper with post-consumer waste (PCW) content (minimum 30%).  This supports the recycling industry by using blue box commodities (paper materials) therefore helping to reduce landfill waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserving our forest resources. If you purchase paper products containing 30% post-consumer waste, this means that 70% of the product is made of harvested tree pulp.
  • Purchasers should request internationally recognized certifications including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to ensure that the pulp originated from sustainably harvested and responsibly managed forests. These certifications help to reduce the degradation of our forest resources and maintain the ability of forests to sequester carbon, reducing the impacts of climate change.
  • In addition, consider purchasing paper produced from mills that do not use chlorine or chlorine compounds during bleaching process. Various terms including elemental chlorine-free (ECF), process chlorine-free (PCF) and total chlorine-free (TCF) are often used to define the bleaching process.   If you are purchasing paper with post-consumer waste, the PCF specification is often requested.   When you request PCF in a tender document, the pulp in the paper is totally chlorine-free and the recycled portion, (post-consumer waste fiber) has not been re-bleached with chlorine-containing compounds.

If printing is required on the packaging, consider the use of water-based printing processes to reduce the use of solvents and therefore reduce the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


Last Updated: November 2019


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