Posted on July 29, 2008 by Dennis Salazar

Is Your Secondary Packaging Really Green?

"Corrugated Recycles Symbol"

I recently met with a large, very eco minded client and I brought up our Globe Guard 100% recycled (PCW) corrugated boxes. She became very interested and indicated she had some doubts about the boxes her current supplier was delivering to her company. The boxes were being touted as “up to 50% recycled content”. We agreed that phrase was carefully crafted for maximum flexibility and minimal responsibility. That specific claim really guaranteed nothing in terms of quantity of recycled content and also did not provide any indication of what type quality of waste is being used to make her boxes.

Not All Sustainable Packaging Is Created Equal

This is not an isolated case. Now that the world is going green, suppliers of packaging products are doing everything they can to put an acceptable if not deceptive green spin on their current products. Being in the business I tend to notice these things and have seen corrugated boxes with large logos printed on them that say something like: “100% recyclable” Don’t most people know that all corrugated is 100% recyclable? Is this a statement that is provide to remind the customer of the box’s recyclability? Or is it intentionally deceptive because many people assume that “recyclable” and “recycled” are interchangeable terms? I can tell you that numerous times, I have met customers who thought their boxes were made of recycled content and were not.

I know that the world of sustainable packaging can be confusing and terminology can be innocently or intentionally misleading but there are some things that are generally accepted as true –

  • The higher the recycled content, the better regardless of whether we are talking about plastics, corrugated or paperboard.
  • Without a guaranteed minimum of recycled content, the manufacturer of the packaging product is really not providing anything consistently green to you or your customer.
  • Post consumer waste is the best form of waste because that has already been through the life cycle once and is likely to wind up in a land fill if it is not recycled and used again to manufacture new packaging products.

As consumers and businesses working to send out a positive eco message to your customers, you have a right, if not responsibility to question each and every green claim. I buy packaging materials for resale and I ask the tough questions of my suppliers before I am willing to represent any product out in the market.

During a presentation, a friend recently told his audience that there is no black and white in green and for the most part I agree. When and if that black and white arrives, purchases and decisions will become easier to make. Green is currently best described as shades of gray and I pass no judgment on good or bad. If corrugated boxes that are 25% recycled in plant, post production waste are right for you, your company and your application, so be it. What I do have an issue with is customers who believe they are buying dark gray and are unknowing receiving light gray.