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Cardboard packaging and its carbon footprint


Cardboard: Packaging with a good environmental balance

In cooperation with the Swedish Research Institute, Pro Carton, the European association of cartonboard and cardboard manufacturers, carried out a comprehensive study. Its aim was to quantify the amount of CO2 emissions generated within a life cycle of cartonboard packaging.

All major aspects of the manufacturing process were considered - from emissions from fossil and renewable energy sources to CO2 attributable to raw material extraction and direct land use change.

According to the results, an average of 326 kg of CO2 is emitted per ton of cartonboard packaging produced in Europe. A comparison with previous estimates shows that the footprint has fortunately shrunk by 9 percent since 2015.

How environmentally friendly cardboard packaging is compared to other forms of packaging is shown by the worldwatchers packaging check. According to the check, paper and cardboard packaging cause around three quarters fewer CO2 emissions over their entire life cycle than, for example, disposable plastic packaging of the same mass. Glass, tinplate and especially aluminum also perform worse.




What influences the carbon footprint of cardboard?

To measure the carbon footprint of a packaged good, a variety of factors must be considered, from the extraction of raw materials to disposal and recycling:

  • Raw materials: Cardboard is made from paper or wood - a raw material that is renewable and transforms CO2 into clean air as it grows back. In addition, 81.3 percent of corrugated board produced in Germany is made from recycled paper. Two factors that have a positive impact on the environmental balance of the material.
  • Production: Through the production, design and processing of cardboard and the corresponding packaging goods consume resources. In addition to raw materials, energy consumption is particularly important.
  • Transport: Raw materials have to be transported to factories, packaging to warehouses and finally to retailers and end consumers. Here, cardboard packaging benefits from its low weight.
  • Reuse, recycling and recovery: What awaits packaging at the end of its life cycle also has an impact on the carbon footprint. The recycling rate for paper and cardboard packaging in Germany was 99.8 percent in 2018. The majority of this is reprocessed into paper products, while the rest is mainly used for energy recovery.


How to save CO2 in your packaging

Almost every company has potential for improvement with regard to its own carbon footprint.
The following measures can help to save resources and reduce
CO2 of shipping and product packaging:

Packaging dimensions:

Product and shipping boxes are often much larger than necessary to provide adequate space for the
products as well as all necessary product labeling and shipping information. The advantage of smaller formats is undeniable: they consume fewer resources and also take up less space in transport and storage.

Supplier selection:

Another option is to choose a packaging supplier who is actively
for climate and environmental protection. With packaging warehouse, for example, you support a project for more sustainability, animal protection and a green future with every order.


Sustainable materials:

For many companies, the focus when deciding on a packaging material is on price, appearance and the resistance of the material - often at the expense of sustainability. However, those who want to act in an environmentally conscious manner should also pay attention to aspects such as the material composition and the recyclability of the packaging goods.

This also pays off in other ways, because customers increasingly appreciate sustainable packaging. In a survey by Simon, Kucher & Partners 83 percent of respondents were prepared to pay a surcharge for sustainable packaging.

While cardboard is generally considered one of the most environmentally friendly materials in the packaging industry, there are also differences between individual types of cardboard. Grass-based cardboard, for example, means a CO2 saving of up to a quarter compared to fresh fiber cardboard and even recycled cardboard.

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