Packaging Industry Aims to Boost Residential Recycling Rates

The Box to Nature campaign supplies graphics that box manufacturers and brands can put on the outside of boxes reminding consumers to empty, flatten and recycle boxes.

Campaign Encourages Manufacturers and Consumers to Help Recycle More Boxes

By Mary Anne Hansan, President of the Paper and Packaging Board

With the climate crisis looming larger than ever, businesses are increasingly searching for more sustainable packaging solutions. Replacing plastic is one of the big opportunities to make an impact. According to the Energy Department, plastics are only recycled at a rate of 5% compared to 68% for paper-based products.

However, e-commerce delivery growth has made it imperative to increase residential box recycling rates. A new residential recycling program called The Box to Nature program reminds and encourages consumers to do their part to break down and recycle their boxes the right way, every time.

Getting the recycling information on boxes and educating consumers on how to do it correctly is a big step in the right direction. Box to Nature consists of a graphic that box manufacturers and brands can put on the outside of boxes telling consumers the three easy steps to recycling boxes: empty, flatten, recycle. It lets them know that they are doing their part. The core message on the mark reads: “This box has up to seven lives, our planet has one,” reflecting the fact that the fibers in corrugated boxes can be reused as many of as seven times.

The mark also has a QR code that leads consumers to an interactive, educational microsite that presents consumers with a quiz about recycling, featuring questions like, “Do you need to remove tape from a box before recycling?” (Hint: No) On the site, consumers can also learn how to become a super recycler.

The Box to Nature program was officially announced by the Paper and Packaging Board (P+PB) with a showstopping, fully recyclable booth at PACK EXPO 2022 in Chicago. Image courtesy of PMMI.

The Box to Nature campaign supplies graphics and a QR code that box manufacturers and brands can put on the outside of boxes reminding consumers to empty, flatten and recycle boxes.

Why this campaign and why now?

The goal of the Box to Nature initiative is to increase the residential box recycling rate and recapture more fiber to make more boxes. Participating brands benefit from a positive lift in perception among consumers due to the association with their choice to use sustainable, recyclable paper-based packaging.

Participation can also help brands take a positive step toward meeting their own zero-waste goals and sustainability pledges. According to PMMI, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies publish sustainability reports. 89% of those companies revealed recyclable design is a key sustainability strategy; 80% want source-reduced packaging and 56% want packaging made from renewable materials.

The paper and packaging industry has made major investments in recycling infrastructure – today more than 94% of Americans have access to recycling programs. Paper is one of the most widely recycled materials on the planet, and in the U.S., recovery rates far exceed others made from fossil fuels, like plastics. When the Box to Nature message was tested prior to launch, 75% of consumers said they would be more likely to recycle their ecommerce box after seeing the graphic.

Consumers are playing a bigger role than ever in recycling as they choose to shop at home more often. Learn how to be a super recycler and do your part of the planet.  Visit paperandpackaging.org for information on how to get involved in this easy program that promises outsize benefits for brands and the environment.

About the Author

Mary Anne Hansan is the President of the Paper and Packaging Board. Discover the difference paper and packaging make every day, and get the resources you need to share the story at www.paperandpackaging.org.

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