BRUSSELS, Jan. 20, 2022 (PPI Europe) -A new university study has dispelled the myth of a limit on the number of recycling loops for fiber-based packaging, saying that paper, board, cartonboard and folding boxes can be recycled more than 25 times with little to no loss of integrity.
For the study, the Graz University of Technology in Austria (TU Graz) repeatedly recycled folding cartonboard to understand what effect, if any, there would be on the mechanical properties of the material, including its innate strength and crush resistance. “No negative effect on the mechanical properties in question can be demonstrated in this study. The swelling capacity of the fiber also showed no negative trend,” the university reported.
According to Winfried Muehling, general manager of Pro Carton, the European association for carton and cartonboard manufacturers, the findings draw a line under a common myth that fiber-based packaging can only be recycled four to seven times before it loses integrity. “It highlights that paper and board fibers are much more durable than previously considered. In fact, Rene Eckhart, senior scientist at TU Graz, who led the research, believes that the limit on how many times paper, carton and cartonboard can be recycled is actually dictated more by the stock preparation process and achieved collection and recycling quota,” Muehling said in a statement.
The current recycling rate for paper and board packaging in Europe stands at approximately 84.2%, and the European paper industry has set itself a target of a 90% recycling rate by 2030.
“To keep our circular business model running, we will always need a sound mix of virgin and recovered fiber. Some customers have specific product requirements allowing only virgin fiber, for instance those requiring packaging intended for direct food contact with moist or greasy food like chocolate. Other examples include luxury packaging with special requirements regarding the whiteness or stiffness of the material which will certainly need virgin fibers,” Muehling noted.
“For our industry it is crucial to collect, sort and recycle all fiber materials in the market. Virgin and recovered fiber are equally important for the circular economy, which is something many of our brands and retailers are looking to support,” he added.