E-commerce has forever changed the way people shop, and now recycled containerboard will change the way products are delivered.
While online shopping is always popular during the holiday season, it has increased even more this year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. With millions opting to avoid in-person shopping, research firm Forrester expects that online retail sales will grow 24 percent in the United States this holiday season, compared to a year ago.
At the same time, shoppers are seeking responsibly packaged products. A report on 2020 U.S. packaging preferences from Two Sides North America Inc. showed consumers prefer paper-based packaging for its environmental attributes, such as recyclability and composability, as well as practical factors like ease of storage. The report also found that consumers are willing to pay more for a sustainably packaged product and will deliberately avoid those that aren’t.
“Packaging is receiving more attention than ever as society tries to achieve a more circular economy,” wrote Phil Riebel, president of Two Sides North America, Inc. “Consumers are becoming more aware of available packaging choices for the items they buy, which in turn is influencing packaging decisions by businesses — particularly in the retail sector.”
The Recycled Containerboard Answer
All those empty boxes have to go somewhere. According to Steve Henry, vice president of our newly formed packaging business, 31.8 million tons of them have been recycled in the last 12 months alone. This is where the conversion of our Kingsport Mill comes in.
Starting in the first quarter of 2023, the retail boxes and other mixed paper in your recycling bin might come back to you in the form of a box made with recycled containerboard from Kingsport. Here’s how the process will work:
- The contents in your recycling bin will be picked up and taken to a sorting center that separates all the cardboard and mixed paper, such as cereal boxes, office paper and newsprint. Those items are formed into large bales that will be delivered to the mill.
- When they arrive, they’ll be placed on a large conveyer and sent to one of two pulper vats to turn the recycled bales into pulp.
- From there, plastics and large contaminants will be removed. Those byproducts will be burned to produce energy and electricity at the mill.
- Then the pulp will go through a screening process to remove fine contaminants and prepare it for the containerboard machine. This includes separating long and short fibers for better blending. Separating and blending fibers allows for better strength properties on the various grades of recycled containerboard that the mill will produce.
- Finally, the recycled containerboard will come off the machine in five-ton reels to be sent to customers who will use it to produce boxes and other packaging materials.
“We’re very excited to contribute to the world’s efforts to eliminate the use of plastic packaging,” says Henry. “Instead of producing packaging that will end up in a landfill and never decompose, our Kingsport Mill will reuse recycled material like boxes and other mixed paper to produce high-quality containerboard that can be recycled again.”