May 7, 2019
This guest blog is courtesy of the Fibre Box Association, Rachel Kenyon, Vice President.
Spring is a time of renewal. For many of us it’s a time to shake off the winter chill. The easiest way to do so, is to look out the window. All around us, nature is renewing itself which makes this the perfect time of year to talk about the renewability of trees, the corrugated industry’s raw material.
One of my favorite things about working in this industry is the continuous circularity of the raw materials that are used to make corrugated products. Different than other packaging materials that rely on fossil fuels as their raw material, corrugated packaging is made from a renewable resource.
It all begins with seedlings
In the US, 3.2 million seedlings are planted each day becoming 1.2 billion seedlings planted each year. These seedlings eventually become forests. One-third of US landmass, or 751 million acres, are classified as forestland. Of this, 504 million acres are classified as timberlands. These timberlands are managed forests, many of them generated on family-owned and operated tree farms.
On these farms, the crop is trees instead of corn, beans, or other agricultural commodities. Like other crops, seedlings which have a 20-30-year growth span, are planted to harvest. Ninety-one percent of the trees harvested in the US are from privately-owned farms. In the meantime, they are a natural habitat for wildlife and streams, absorb enough CO2 to offset 10% of the nation’s emissions annually and provide recreation for outdoor enthusiasts.
Once trees become mature, they’re ready for harvest. Because we plant so many trees each year, the planting of trees began to outpace the harvesting of trees in 1940. In fact, today at least three seedlings are planted for each tree harvested, resulting in a 1.7 growth-to-harvest ratio. This continuous planting cycle along with only taking what we need ensures that there is a constant crop of trees. Without the sustainable management of tree farms and continuous replanting, these farms and these lands would be used for another purpose. Trees would be replaced by other crops or developed for other purposes such as residential neighborhoods or commercial buildings.
To learn more about the families that manage tree farms, click here to access the Paper + Packaging Board’s Faces of the Forest video series.
But wait, the story doesn’t end there. Once corrugated products have been used, we ask that you give them back. Corrugated packaging has a tremendous recycling success story. Corrugated boxes (bins and trays too) used to deliver products to market and to your doorstep are recyclable – the most widely recycled packaging material in the country. Ninety-six percent of Americans have access to either curbside recovery or local drop off locations that add to abundant commercial recovery. Once collected, corrugated packaging is recycled. Boxes are broken back down into the fibers that originally came from the tree. These fibers are used to manufacture another box.
This creates the ongoing circularity of fiber. From tree to box to recycling to another corrugated box. Completing the circle. Like nature from season to season. From dormant winter to spring renewal.
NERC welcomes guest blog submissions. To inquire about submitting articles contact Lynn Rubinstein.
Disclaimer: Guest blogs represent the opinion of the writers and may not reflect the policy or position of the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.