Sustana mill in Lévis, Quebec begins recycling cartons

Sustana mill in Lévis, Quebec begins recycling cartons

Stable and thriving end markets for post-consumer cartons are critical to the success of national recycling and recovery efforts. As a result, one of the central pillars of Carton Council of Canada’s (CCC’s) mandate is to act as a resource, connecting MRFs with mills and other purchasers of post-consumer cartons.

In 2019, an estimated 33,000 tonnes of cartons were collected for recycling in Canada; any of the bales that were purchased for recycling had to be sent to the United States or to other international purchasers.

On May 1, 2020, however, CCC was pleased to help share the news that Sustana Fiber’s mill located in Lévis, Quebec has begun accepting food and beverage cartons for recycling. Sustana Fiber Lévis is the first Canadian mill in 20 years to recycle cartons. This is an important milestone for cartons in Canada, as we now also have access to a domestic recycler of post-consumer food and beverage cartons.

Sustana Lévis will be sourcing dedicated bales of used cartons (PSI-52 grade) primarily from MRFs in Eastern Canada. Currently, Sustana Lévis’s capacity is estimated to be 3,000 to 4,000 metric tons of used cartons annually though the mill has plans to increase this volume over time. That is approximately twice the volume of cartons sold by Quebec MRFs in 2019 according to Recyc-Quebec’s Material Price Index; in Ontario, MRFs sold approximately 8,000 tonnes of carton bales in 2018 (the latest available figure provided in RPRA’s Datacall report).

CCC was proud to support Sustana Fiber in its decision to accept cartons for recycling at its Lévis, Quebec facility, providing estimates on the potential supply levels of post-consumer cartons in their target area and helping them make the necessary connections with MRFs and other facilities. In other cases, CCC can be a resource to MRFs considering implementing positive sorting of cartons, and sharing best practices to optimize sorting processes.

If you have questions, as a municipality, a MRF or mill, please don’t hesitate to contact me at CCC would be pleased to work with you.

Sustana Fiber’s Lévis, Quebec mill begins accepting cartons for recycling

Used food and beverage cartons await recycling at Sustana Fiber’s Lévis, Quebec paper mill.

May 1, 2020 – Sustana Fiber and Carton Council Canada are very pleased to announce that Sustana’s mill located in Lévis, Quebec has begun accepting food and beverage cartons for recycling. Sustana Fiber, Lévis is the first Canadian mill in 20 years to recycle cartons.

The decision to recycle cartons at the Lévis facility reflects Sustana’s strategic commitment to innovation and sustainability as well as the need for alternative sources of high-quality fibre due to demand for household paper products. Every carton recycled helps with the raw materials needed to keep producing essential items such as toilet paper and paper towel and prevent shortages.

“At Sustana, we are enthusiastic champions of responsible manufacturing, environmental stewardship, and positive community impact,” says Michele Bartolini, Senior Marketing Director at Sustana. “By recycling alternative fibers, we are proud to enhance our support for a thriving circular economy and help conserve precious resources. We are also keen to do our part, supporting the supply chain working to make the products people need right now.”

“We are excited by Sustana Fiber’s decision to recycle cartons closer to home,” says Nancy Doyon, Director of Development at Récupéraction Centre-du-Quebec in Drummondville, Qc.  “The presence of a domestic recycler is a significant step in strengthening the circular economy for cartons in Canada. Working together, we can continue to develop and improve carton recycling in Eastern Canada.”

Stable and thriving end-markets for post-consumer cartons are important to the success of national recycling and recovery efforts. Increased carton recycling helps preserve natural resources, meet important diversion and recycling goals, create jobs and, in the case of COVID-19, helps to avoid shortages of the pulp needed to manufacture essential items.

“Ensuring stable end-markets is an essential element of the Carton Council Canada’s ongoing mandate as it is a vital component of a sustainable carton recycling supply chain,” says Isabelle Faucher, Managing Director, Carton Council Canada. “We are thrilled by the action Sustana Fiber, Lévis has taken and hope it provides an added incentive for those MRFs who are not yet positively sorting this commodity to start doing so.”

CCC offers resources to MRFs to support their carton sorting optimizing process.

In 2019, an estimated 33,000 tonnes of cartons were collected for recycling in Canada. As of January 2020, the national blended carton recycling-recovery rate was 58%[i]. This is up from 26 per cent in 2008. In 2019, CCC members agreed to adopt a 70% carton recycling target by 2025.

[i] Some jurisdictions report a recycling rate while others report a recovery rate. For this reason, we cannot report a uniform national recycling or recovery rate.

About Sustana

Sustana, comprised of Sustana Fiber and Rolland, committed to industry-leading product quality, continuous improvement and environmental stewardship – by innovating solutions that are better for business, better for the environment and better for society at large. Sustana is proud to provide a comprehensive, sustainable pulp and paper solution for customers throughout North America. For more information, visit Contact: Michele Bartolini, Senior Marketing Director 

About Carton Council Canada

Carton Council of Canada (CCC) is a coalition of carton manufacturers working together to deliver long-term solutions to help increase carton recovery and recycling in Canada. Carton Council of Canada members including carton manufacturers Elopak, Evergreen Packaging, Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc, work together to demonstrate that carton packaging is the smart green choice today and in the future. For more information, visit Contact: Isabelle Faucher, Managing Director


Responding to COVID-19

Responding to COVID-19

In the last number of weeks, COVID-19 has turned our day-to-day life upside down. As we all adjust to a new social reality, many of our partners and Carton Council of Canada members are on the front lines of this crisis, doing what they can to help support the ongoing recycling efforts of our communities. On behalf of the CCC, thank you for your outstanding commitment.

There are many ways that MRFs and other recycling partners are adapting their processes and businesses to this unusual time.

Nancy Doyon, Director of Development of Récupéraction Centre-du-Québec in Drummondville, QC recently shared some of their strategies with me. The more we can share best practices, the more equipped we are to continue navigating new challenges.

Récupéraction Centre-du-Québec operates a recyclables sorting facility in addition to managing one of the most functional ecocentres in Quebec. The company has 175 staff and they process approximately 30,000 tonnes per year of recyclable materials from the regional county municipalities of Drummond, Acton and Les Maskoutains, and from the Sorel-Tracy area.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the team at Récupéraction Centre-du-Québec have implemented a number of proactive strategies including:

  • Regular meetings with staff to emphasize hygiene and social distancing measures
  • Taking advantage of their facility’s physical layout, allowing them to ensure a minimum distance of 2 m between sorters at sorting stations
  • Disinfecting 4 times per day
  • Splitting break and lunch times into two shifts, in order to have half the people together during those times and maintain appropriate physical distances between everyone

The reality of the situation is that no one knows when this public health crisis will end. Until then, we do know that ongoing communication and assessment of risks is essential to the safety of our workforce and teams and, in turn our families and communities.

If you have other suggestions to share, please send them to me at and we can capture them in our next update.

Until then, be safe and be well.

Carton Recycling 2020

Carton Recycling 2020

As a new year and a new decade begin, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the state of carton recycling in Canada.

In some respects, it has been a tough fight. The market continues to be challenging and end market opportunities continue to be limited. Globally, while cartons weren’t directly affected by China’s ban on importing waste, the domino effect of this action has in turn decreased the value of the commodity.

On a more local level, recent media coverage has fuelled skepticism about the recycling process and what happens to recyclables after they leave the curb, potentially undermining consumers’ confidence in and commitment to the practice of recycling. Even media “experts” are often misinformed about the recycling of cartons and what can be recycled where.

And yet, despite the challenges, there are many reasons to be optimistic:

  • Advances in technology have offered the sector unprecedented opportunities to introduce robotics and improvements like automated sorting to Canadian facilities, optimizing positive carton sorting efforts.
  • Cartons offer tremendous value as a recycled commodity. Their fibres are a highly sought-after resource in the manufacturing of new paper-based products and while consumption of sorted office paper (SOP) decreases significantly across North America, cartons are an excellent alternative feedstock.
  • There also remains significant interest from end markets to add cartons as a feedstock as they identify their potential to be processed into not only different types of paper or tissue but also green building products, decreasing the strain on natural resources.

In 2019, the Carton Council of Canada set an ambition to see the carton recovery rate grow to 70 per cent by 2025 (from 60 per cent in 2018). Work towards that goal has begun but in 2020 it will require a concerted, collaborative effort by all members of the recycling value chain, including sorting facilities, municipalities, waste management companies and other stakeholders, to continue to work and innovate together.

The Carton Council of Canada is proud of the work it’s done since 2010 to deliver long-term solutions to help increase carton recovery and recycling in Canada – and looks forward to even greater efforts to support Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), develop end-markets for used cartons, and educate Canadian consumers in the decade to come.

A bit of organization and a clear message can greatly boost recycling in schools, a recent pilot project suggests

A bit of organization and a clear message can greatly boost recycling in schools, a recent pilot project suggests

It wouldn’t necessarily take a lot to considerably increase the recycling of beverage and food containers, including cartons, in schools. Every year, elementary and high school students in Canada consume tens of millions of individual milk cartons and drink boxes, as well as huge quantities of other types of containers. Unfortunately, schools often have a poor record of recovering and recycling them. Many don’t realize that these containers can be recycled just like paper. Solutions to this issue need to be found. Happily, a recently completed pilot project in the Québec City area shows us that with a bit of organization and communication, we can make substantial progress on this front.

This pilot project, whose report was submitted last month, took place during the 2018–2019 school year at the initiative of the Communauté métropolitaine de Québec (Québec City metropolitan community), with the support of Recyc-Québec (the province of Québec’s government recycling corporation) and the Carton Council of Canada. The non-profit organization Quebec’ERE and the environmental consulting firm Chamard also contributed their expertise. This project focused on all food and beverage containers, including cartons.

The study was conducted in six elementary and four high schools in the Québec City area. In six of these schools, a passive intervention method was used; a more active method was used in the others. The passive method consisted of installing posters (different posters for elementary and high schools; see the photo) and recycling bins for the containers in strategic locations. The posters clearly stated that it was not necessary to rinse the containers, only to empty them, before placing them in the bins. This belief in the need to wash containers had previously been identified as a disincentive to recycling. In addition to the posters, the active method included presentations and a contest to raise awareness and increase student and staff engagement.

At the end of the pilot project, there was an average increase of 33.7% in the container recovery rate for the active method and 22.9% for the passive method. The same trajectory was seen for cartons, with an overall increase of 33.2%. In addition, there was no significant contamination of the recovered material by beverage or food waste, indicating that the directive that it was necessary only to empty the containers was enough to ensure their recyclability. Although the active method produced better results, the outcome of the less complex passive method was also encouraging.

Interestingly—but not necessarily surprisingly—the elementary schools performed better than the high schools. I attribute this difference to the greater supervision in elementary schools, especially at meal and snack times. This difference could suggest a need for more support at the high school level, possibly through the creation of “green teams” composed of students and faculty members. For those who may be interested, EcoSchools Canada, with which we are also collaborating, has tips for organizing such teams on its website here.

Among the results of this study, I am particularly pleased with the fact that the directive that the containers be completely emptied but not rinsed seems to have encouraged their recovery, while in no way hindering their recycling. Any school that wishes to improve its container recycling performance would certainly benefit from keeping this in mind.

The full report on the pilot project (in French) can be downloaded here.

From left to right: the poster used for the campaign in primary schools, and the one used for secondary schools.