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How the Carton Council is helping build a sustainable recycling supply chain for food and beverage cartons

Ad used for the carton-focused digital advertising campaign, which ran in four Ontario communities  in Fall 2015
Ad used for the carton-focused digital advertising campaign, which ran in four Ontario communities in Fall 2015

My first year as Managing Director of the Carton Council of Canada (CCC) – a group of carton manufacturers united to grow carton recycling in North America - has been an exciting one. I am thrilled to see a real concern for the current sustainability challenges the industry faces. From the field, to the plate, to the recycling bin or the compost pile, the journey of food makes us accountable as a society for the waste it leaves behind and ultimately, its diversion from disposal. The concern is also valid when it comes to packaging milk, juice, wine, soup, broth - cartons are no exception and are widely utilized for food and beverages.

Carton Council’s approach to this situation has been to work with stakeholders across all stages of the recycling value chain in order to grow recycling of used food and beverage cartons in Canada. With this in mind, we have implemented a number of initiatives over the past year to help build a sustainable carton recycling supply chain.

In late 2015, we partnered with four Ontario municipal programs to launch a digital advertising campaign aiming to remind and encourage consumers to recycle their food and beverage cartons. The campaign reached 4.6 million views and preliminary indications concerning the number of cartons recovered after the advertising campaign started are promising. The ads, as well as other promotion and education tools, are available for download on our website.

Earlier this year, we developed and released the Carton Recycling Primer with the goal to share our knowledge and expertise around carton recycling with recycling stakeholders. This comprehensive report provides information, data and best practices about carton recycling collection, sorting and marketing. Aiming to maximize the amount of cartons recovered, we also provided technical advice to municipalities and MRF operators in order to optimize carton recycling in their respective facilities.

In December 2015, I had the chance to visit Des Moines, Iowa-based The Rewall Company, a recycler which converts used cartons and other polycoat packaging into high performance green building materials. The process uses the whole carton and does not require any water nor produces any emissions. It was fascinating to see the final product - roof cover board, made from Canadian carton bales. Rewall represents a new end-market option for recovered cartons in addition to the existing paper mills.

Packaging is an intrinsic part of the food and beverage industry and plays a crucial role when it comes to food protection, food waste prevention and allowing efficient distribution. In addition to fulfilling these functions, we are proud that carton packaging has one of the lowest environmental impacts within the packaging industry. We seek to reduce this impact further by increasing carton recycling across Canada, and in 2016, we look forward to continuing the strong and critical collaboration with key stakeholders to achieve this. When the content is gone, let the carton live on! 

Roof cover board made from used food and beverage cartons by Iowa-based The Rewall Company.

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