Monday, October 31, 2011

What is Corrugated Packaging’s Carbon Footprint?

Recently, the corrugated industry performed a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of corrugated packaging production. The study quantified the environmental effects produced by corrugated fiberboard items. A carbon footprint is the measurement of all greenhouse gases generated during the lifespan of a product. The LCA demonstrated that the carbon footprint for use and end-of-life stages of an average, 1-kilogram corrugated object is equivalent to 1 kilogram of carbon dioxide.

This low, 1-to-1 ratio is attributed to the renewable nature of corrugated’s raw material. Corrugated fiberboard is a multilayered substance with a fluted bottom or middle layer. Flute is made from unbleached pulpwood. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide (a process called carbon sequestration) and corrugated is made from wood-based (tree-derived) materials, burning corrugated paperboard does not increase or contribute to the Co2 problem— trees absorb carbon dioxide and burning re-releases it, resulting in a net-zero environmental impact.

In addition, the mills that produce corrugated fiberboard often use biomass fuels— energy that is also derived from natural agents – which reduce the overall footprint when compared with facilities that solely use fossil fuels. However, this type of packaging solution can contribute negatively to the environment when not disposed of properly. Stay tuned next week to learn how we can further decrease corrugated’s carbon footprint.

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