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.