The Lifecycle of a Cardboard Box: Corrugated Packaging & The Circular Economy

The environmental impact of materials and products has become a growing talking point across many industries because of the huge amounts of waste going to landfill. It’s time to make a change and we’re here to share with you the many benefits of adopting a circular economy.

A lot more goes into the lifecycle of a cardboard box to make it eco-friendly, than you might think and the process of being environmentally friendly starts early on. In fact, 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage!

What is the circular economy?

Traditionally, the economy used to operate a linear model, where we would make a product, use it and then dispose of it. The difference with a circular economy is that resources are kept in use for as long as possible by extracting the most value from them at every stage when in use and at the end of their life by recovering and regenerating products and materials.

Moving from a “make, use, dispose of” to a “make/remake, use/reuse” process.

How does the lifecycle of corrugated cardboard relate to a circular economy?

The circular economy is just the way of life for the corrugated packaging industry. After all, it is one of the most recycled paper products. as its 100% recyclable and biodegradable. At Ribble Packaging, all our corrugated papers are FSC Certified meaning that all the papers used can be traced as far back to the specific tree that they came from. Here’s a summary of what happens at each stage…

The Circular Economy Model

Stage 1: Design & Manufacture (using raw materials to create a product)

When designing a product, the designer must consider how a product will be collected and recycled after use, how to select materials and processes that reduce any impact on the environment and lastly, how they can extend the life of the product.

Stage 2: Retailer (selling a product to consumer)

In the circular economy, there’s an opportunity for retailers to improve customer experience and connect with new customers on a deeper level by establishing shared values concerning the environment. Consumers are demanding these days with online retailers playing a particularly big role in the delivery of a circular economy.

The retailer should consider how they can increase the lifetime of products and how they can make it easier for consumers to recycle, resell and donate. As well as reducing packaging waste when sending products in the wrong size boxes with excessive void fillers.

Stage 3: Consumer

Whilst consumers are wanting a more sustainable world, they are reluctant to overpay for this. Therefore, it’s important to consider the consumer when pricing. Prices need to be fair and reflect quality.

Stage 4: Re-use/Repair/Repurpose product if possible

Re-use and recycling are not the same. Re-use of products and materials is more beneficial

as it retains a product’s value by keeping it in use for longer. Thus, minimising waste, creating jobs, and reducing consumption and the carbon impact it has.

To reduce the amount of product we send to landfills we need to increase the rate of re-use for products and their components. The supply chain and consumers both play an important role in this stage of the circular economy model.

Consider an incentivised return for returned products that can be refurbished and resold. As well as maximising the product lifetime to reduce repeated purchases.

Stage 5: Recycle into raw material to begin at stage 1 again.

This involves the collection, sorting and processing of disposed materials for use in other manufacturing processes. Depending on the complexity of the product being recycled, the process will vary, and care needs to be taken to maintain the integrity of materials each time they are recycled.

To conclude, the circular economy essentially feeds material back into the process ready for something new to be created using the recycled materials. In relation to corrugated boxes, a new box is created by feeding the used paper back into the cycle.

Eventually, the UK will run out of natural resources if we don’t move to a circular economy. It sounds sensationalist but the evidence is stacking up and the impact of our linear economy is becoming increasingly apparent across many industries.

If you’d like to speak to us about how Ribble is helping companies like yours to reduce their environmental impact by reducing packaging waste, give us a call on 0161 284 9000 or email info@ribble-pack.co.uk



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