Packaging materials are used every day in almost every company that manufactures and sells products. Packaging is used to move raw material to a manufacturer, bulk finished material to a distributor and then the final product to the consumer. Packaging material is there to perform a number of tasks; protect the material from damage, from the environmental conditions, to make transportation easier and to make the item attractive to the consumer. However, as the public’s perception about the environment changes, companies are looking at how they can adopt greener packaging alternatives.
Recycled content is available in packaging materials, including corrugated cartons, paperboard, molded pulp, newsprint, aluminum, steel, glass and some, but not all, plastics. For some packaging materials, it is standard practice to include some level of recycled content.
Post-Consumer And Pre-Consumer Content
The term “post-consumer” refers to end products that have been used by the consumer and then separated from wastes for recycling. Post-consumer materials include materials recycled by both households and non-residential users such as offices, manufacturers and retailers. Examples of post-consumer materials include block foam, glass and aluminum containers, newspapers, and corrugated cartons.
Pre-consumer content is different from post-consumer content as it includes waste left over from converting and printing processes, discarded by the manufacturer prior to use by the consumer. Manufacturers report either total recycled content by combining the totals for pre and post-consumer or report post-consumer content only. Both pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled materials provide the environmental benefits. Using post-consumer content provides markets for items separated for recycling by consumers.
Due to the low cost, versatility and durability, paperboard is used to package materials in a variety of industries. Businesses are using increasing amounts of paperboard with post-consumer recycled content because of its high quality, cost advantage and lower environmental impact.
With the improvements in the quality, variety and availability of recycled content paperboard, companies have adopted the use of recycled paperboard in products reaching the consumer. Studies have found that over 50% of products on supermarket shelves are packaged in recycled paperboard.
Consumers are increasing aware of environmental issues and efforts that manufacturers are making with regards to using recycled packaging does not go unnoticed. In a survey by the Recycled Paperboard Alliance, 61% of consumers were more inclined to purchase products from a company that uses recycled paperboard packaging. The study also found that 77% of consumers felt better about a company that uses recycled paperboard and 80% felt they were "doing something good for the environment" when they bought products with recycled paperboard packaging.
As companies adopt more environmentally friendly policies, a simple change that can be made in the supply chain that is should not increase overall cost, is to increase the use of recycled packaging. The products that are now available, such as recycled paperboard, are of high quality, lower cost and are an important consideration to consumers.