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Sustainability, Consumer Demand Drive Paper Packaging Innovation

Categories: Industry Insights
Packaging innovation supports further sustainability

When it comes to packaging innovation, the industry is seeing something of a revival in paper and paper-based packaging, thanks to growing consumer demand for plastic alternatives, increased urbanization and an uptick in extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation related to packaging.

The great news is that paper and paper-based packaging, such as the recycled containerboard that will be produced at our Kingsport Mill starting early next year, is made from sustainable wood fiber and is easily recyclable.

In fact, the paper recycling rate hit 68 percent in 2021, with paper and paper-based packaging make up the majority of packaging that is recycled each year. In 2021 91.4 percent of cardboard boxes were recycled, up from 88.8 percent in 2020.

Industry Celebrates Packaging Innovation

Today’s interest in plastic alternatives is spurring a new wave of packaging innovation, in part through a series of design challenges. In 2021, Domtar was named a winner in the Beyond the Bag challenge for its strong yet stretchable cellulose fiber-based bag.

And this year, the Paper and Packaging Board held a recyclable packaging design competition that focused on paper as the material of choice. Pack It! The Packaging Recycling Design Challenge is a two-episode YouTube series that gave contestants 10 hours to create paper-based, recyclable packaging to replace commonly used plastic packaging. The prize for each episode was $5,000.

In the first episode, two contestants were challenged with creating packaging for a beauty subscription box. In the second episode, two new contestants worked to design packaging for a delivery meal kit. The packaging had to meet three criteria: recyclability, innovation and product safety.

The series, which launched in August, is part of the Paper and Packaging Board’s How Life Unfolds campaign. The Pack It! challenge helps generate awareness about sustainable packaging and the renewable nature of paper by encouraging packaging innovation.

“There’s a hunger for innovative paper and cardboard packaging solutions among sustainability advocates and informed consumers alike,” explained Mary Anne Hansan, president of the Paper and Packaging Board, in a recent press release. “By creating packaging that’s made entirely out of paper products, we’re minimizing the waste that makes its way into landfills and replacing less-sustainable packaging in the marketplace. Paper is natural and renewable, as well as an expressive medium that lets brands package the products we love in earth-friendly packaging.”

Watch the Pack It! competition using the links below, or visit the How Life Unfolds® YouTube channel to view more.