Skip to Main Content

Sustainable Packaging Solutions

A Commitment to Managed Forestry, Continuous Recycling, Energy Management and Responsible Operations

Life Cycle Animation

The Life Cycle of the Corrugated Box

Corrugated boxes are everywhere.  As a matter of fact, each year in the United States, 38 billion corrugated boxes go through various distribution channels in order to get people the products they need. It is a $33 billion industry providing employment and benefits to approximately 100,000 people across the country.

Did you know that most boxes do make their way back to a paper mill to be re-pulped and made into a new corrugated box?  Corrugated is the most recycled packaging material there is making boxes the most sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging material available. How are they made, and what makes them environmentally friendly? Let’s take a closer look at the life cycle of a corrugated box.

Life Cycle of a Corrugated Box

Stacking Logs

Managed Forestry

Corrugated boxes are made from a renewable resource. The trees used are planted, grown and harvested responsibly from managed forests. Most managed forests are privately owned.

The trees are responsibly and sustainably cultivated and are not in danger of being depleted. As a matter of fact, since the 1950s the amount of standing timber in the U.S. has increased by 60%.

PCA makes managed forestry a priority in its sustainability efforts and is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) program.

PCA’S SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY POLICY

 

Placing Corrugated in a Recycling Bin

Continuous Recycling

Corrugated is the most recycled packaging material. In 2020, approximately 90 percent of all corrugated products were recovered and directed into the recycling stream.

But a steady infusion of new fiber into the production cycle is essential for sustainability. Wood fibers break down and lose their desirable attributes after multiple reuses.

Therefore, if new fiber is not constantly added into the manufacturing cycle, corrugated products won’t perform properly, the needs of our customers would not be met and our industry would run out of viable raw material for production.

Corrugated is the most recycled packaging material.

50%

amount of recycled content in the average corrugated box

76%

recovered packaging material from paper-based packaging

90%

approximate recycling rate for corrugated boxes in 2020

PCA Mill Exterior

Energy Management

By maximizing the use of renewable, carbon-beneficial bioenergy, paper mills throughout the U.S. avoid the eventual release of about 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year. That’s the same as removing 35 million cars from the road.*

  • At PCA’s mill in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, a wastewater treatment lagoon captures methane gas generated through the decomposition of organic materials and uses it as fuel for boilers.
  • In International Falls, Minnesota, a turbine generator has increased the rate of electrical self-generation by 595,000 GJ of energy per year. This is the equivalent electrical consumption of 15,120 homes — or five times the number of households in the entire city of International Falls.
  • At our Counce, Tennessee, and Valdosta, Georgia, mills, upgraded recovery boiler and turbine generator assets increase the use of internally generated wood waste and black liquor energy sources to increase our capacity to self-generate electricity. This contributes approximately 3 million GJ of biogenic, carbon-neutral energy to our portfolio, which enables the mills to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. It would require over 2,800 acres of solar panels to generate this same level of renewable power.

*Source: National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, 2014

PCA Energy Performance Metrics

Improving energy efficiency and expanding our use of renewable sources is the
central component of our sustainable energy strategy.

61%

of all energy used is carbon neutral

38%

of all electric power is self-generated

97%

of all fossil fuel consumed is natural gas

Design Mfg. Delivery Collage

Providing Responsible Design, Manufacturing and Delivery

We strive to continuously “rightsize” packaging designs for our customers to ensure no more material is used than is absolutely necessary while still providing the most effective container possible.

This makes corrugated packaging designed and produced by PCA lightweight and more space-efficient which ultimately means less energy is used to ship them, further reducing the carbon footprint.

Our CEO on PCA’s Sustainability Commitment

“Our Sustainability Committee has formalized a set of Sustainable Business Principles as the foundation for PCA’s deliberate and thoughtful approach to our environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts. These principles will guide us as we endeavor to meet the needs of our stakeholders for generations to come.”

View our Corporate Responsibility Report

Sustainable Business Principles

Our Foundational Approach

  • Uphold the principles of sustainable forest management to provide ecological, social and economic benefits to the communities where we operate.
  • Prioritize the health and safety of our employees above all else to achieve a workplace free from serious injuries and fatalities.
  • Invest in our people, our operations, technology and science, and our communities to attain unparalleled employee engagement, operational excellence and customer satisfaction.
  • Help customers reach their sustainability goals, grow their business and operate efficiently.
  • Make a continuous effort to maximize the efficiency of everything we do to reduce the consumption of raw materials and minimize waste in all its forms.
  • Manufacture high-quality, high-performance products from responsibly sourced renewable materials that are recyclable or reusable.
  • Act with integrity and use responsible business practices to earn the trust of our stakeholders.
  • Be a good steward of the watersheds and aquifers we depend on by understanding water as a shared resource and collaborating with others to ensure water security.
  • Increase the use of renewable or carbon-free energy sources until greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels have been effectively mitigated.

Sustainability Certifications

SFI Logo

Sustainable Forestry Initiative

FSC Logo

Forestry Stewardship Council

PEFC Logo

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification

Man Behind the Wheel of a Truck

Short hauls contribute to a reduced carbon footprint.

You don’t have to go far to find the corrugated solutions you need. Our facilities are strategically positioned to meet the needs of both large and small businesses.

Our Locations

Hands With Globe and Recycling Logo

Sustainable Products — Better for Business and the Planet

Choose a partner who can elevate your corrugated packaging with sustainable solutions.