Corrugated: Latest LCA study reveals significant drop in GHG emissions by US boxmakers

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Corrugated: Latest LCA study reveals significant drop in GHG emissions by US boxmakers

June 06, 2014 - 11:43

OAKLAND, June 6, 2014 (PPI Pulp & Paper Week) -A new US corrugated box making industry life cycle assessment (LCA) shows a significant 32% reduction per unit in the industry's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2010 vs in 2006.

In addition, the industry improved in other environmental impact indicators, according to the report. A box's effects from nutrient releases on water and soil (eutrophication) decreased by 22%, and its effects of particulate matter emissions (respiratory effects) decreased by 14%.

The LCA examined seven environmental indicators, which included GHG and eutrophication, acidification, ozone depletion, smog, respiratory effects, and fossil fuel depletion. Also, the LCA examined four inventory indicators: water use, water consumption, renewable energy demand, and non-renewable energy demand.

The study was commissioned by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance and conducted by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. The study's focus was measuring the environmental impacts of a 1 kg (2.2 lb) industry-average corrugated product.

OCC recovery increased.The reduction in GHG emissions per unit is primarily attributed to increased recovery and recycling of old corrugated containers (OCC), according to the report. The OCC recovery rate increased from 72% in 2006 to 85% in 2010. As more OCC was recovered, less went to landfills and resulted in reduced methane emissions.

Containerboard mills also reduce GHG emissions by decreasing fossil fuel consumption and switching to the less carbon-intensive natural gas.

The study also examined the relative impacts of industry-average corrugated products (that contain 46% recycled fiber) and 100% recycled corrugated products. The LCA determined that both the 100% recycled and industry-average corrugated products have their own environmental advantages.