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When folding cartons are discarded after use, the best option for the environment is to divert them from landfills through recycling. Cartons can be collected and sent to a mill, where they are recycled by reprocessing which separates the fibers. The recovered fibers are then used to make cartonboard or another paper or board product. 60% of cartons in Europe are made from recycled cartonboard.
All paper and board waste arising during manufacturing is relatively easy to recover, as, for instance, trimmed waste in cartonboard mills and from carton manufacturers. However, the bulk of paper and board, especially for packaging, is ultimately dispersed throughout society. The main sources of paper collection in general are 50% from trade and industry, 40% from households and 10% from offices.
The highest potential for continuing to increase the amount of recycling of paper and board products lies with recovery from households. Realizing this potential, however, depends on the quality of the used paper and board collection. Separate collection of paper and board from other materials is encouraged, as it increases the quality of the recovered paper.
Packaging, including cartons, has a major role to play in resource efficiency by protecting goods and thus conserving more resources than it uses. In addition, the ability to recover and recycle used cartons at the end of life of packed products, saves resources.
The cartonboard packaging industry already has a good story to tell about sustainability as a renewable and recyclable packaging material, and developing a fuller understanding of the cartonboard packaging industry's resource usage is now a priority for the industry and its customers.