Pulp Magic

DECEMBER 19, 2018

Paper: Part of Our Sustainable Future

CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently did a story on an ambitious plan to corral and clean up the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Although that name conjures images of a massive floating landfill, the patch can’t always or even often be recognized with the naked eye. It instead refers to a vast, diffuse area in the northeastern Pacific (there are several such areas around the globe) where currents tend to collect higher than usual concentrations of floating natural and manmade debris.

In addition to being unsightly, such concentrations raise concerns about long-term effects on marine life.

Thankfully, you don’t hear much about paper in these stories. Why?

One big reason is that paper and paper-based packaging has a recycling and recovery rate far higher than many other materials, which by contrast wind up in landfills more often. Paper and containerboard recycling have been trending up for decades, and that’s no accident. It reflects massive innovation and awareness raising efforts by our industry, and a longstanding commitment to using our natural resources efficiently, optimizing recycled content, and promoting recovery.

And, of course, it reflects the responsible stewardship and good recycling habits of hundreds of millions of Americans like you.

While we’re proud to know that we work with a material that can recycled and renewed by replanting trees, we also realize we can always do better. As an industry, we’re constantly innovating ways to make it easier for consumers and businesses to recycle our products. Because the best way to clean up the Garbage Patches is to prevent them by making sure that everything that can be recycled ends up in the “blue bin.”

It’s especially important that paper and packaging lead the way on recycling, because contrary to pessimistic news stories about our industry, like Mark Twain’s death, the rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated. If anything, paper and paper-based packaging is entering an exciting new era, driven by innovative reimaginings of ancient technologies like origami; continuous evolution and creative design breakthroughs in food protection and safety; and thought-provoking new cognitive science on the value of paper-driven learning.

In short, paper isn’t going anywhere. We’re just getting started. And since we plan on being a big part of the future, we plan on doing everything we can to make that future sustainable.