Pro Carton is the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard manufacturers. Its primary activity is to promote the use of cartonboard as a sustainable packaging material because of its biodegradable, recyclable and renewable properties. Our ambition is to encourage brand owners to adopt cartonboard packaging for environmental and economical reasons as well as increase consumer awareness of its sustainability credentials.
How does Pro Carton view packaging for a better, more sustainable future?
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of sustainable is ‘the idea that goods and services should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do not damage the environment.’ This is core to the principle of the circular economy. Sustainability is about much more than just recyclability, even though this is, of course, an essential part. The lifecycle of cartonboard is a perfect example of this being renewable and recyclable.
Cartons are made from wood pulp which makes them renewable, and the practice of sustainable forest management by the European paper and board industry is responsible for the growth of Europe’s
forests. Once the packaging has been used by the consumer it should be recycled, which is what currently happens to 85% of paper and cartonboard packaging in Europe.
Compared to sustainable plastics, what benefits does carton offer?
Cartonboard is renewable and recyclable, and is also biodegradable, so it will break down completely if it inadvertently gets into nature. As stated before, to be truly sustainable a material needs to be renewable and recyclable, cartonboard meets that requirement. I’m not sure that all other materials do.
What has been their greatest achievement?
Pro Carton’s greatest achievement has been the role it has played in the undeniable trend of brands and retailers switching to cartonboard packaging. Last year saw multinational giants such as Coca Cola and McDonalds as well as major retailers like Asda and Aldi announce switches to cartonboard as part of its sustainability pledges. One of the driving forces behind these changes is increased consumer desire for environmentally friendly packaging placing heightened pressure on brands to make the switch. This movement is particularly prominent amongst the younger generation, as shown by a Forbes report which revealed that 62% of Millennials and Generation Z prefer to buy from sustainable brands.
Pro Carton is keen to engage with young people as they are not only already powerful influencers but are our future. Our home-schooling initiative EduCarton, which launched during lockdown, teaches children about the environment and the benefits of cartonboard through a variety of worksheets and printable activities. Similarly, our TICCIT (Trees into Cartons, Cartons into Trees) schools education programme has reached over 100,000 children worldwide. Other great platforms which connect with those of university age are the Pro Carton Young Designers Award, which has seen entries more than triple in three years to more than 500 and the Pro Carton Student Video Award which was launched this year and received entries from 12 different countries.
Lastly, The Carton Campaigners, who promote the 5Rs of Responsibility – Renew, Recycle, Replace, Reduce and Reuse - has been particularly influential, with our animated videos achieving over 1 million views.
What timeline to sustainable packaging is realistic to Pro Carton and what measures have to be taken to get there?
We encourage all brand owners to engage with their carton supplier at the earliest stage of the packaging development process. The carton converters are expert at devising practical solutions and often will do this as part of the service they provide or at nominal cost. The timeline will depend on a vast number of factors with machinery lead times usually being the longest if a new packing line is required. Carton converters have however been known to turn around a new design in a few weeks from original brief to delivery to the factory!
Where does the responsibility for sustainable packaging (and therefore a better world) lie?
The responsibility for sustainable packaging lies collectively with us all - brands, retailers, packaging companies, consumers, and governments. To minimise our impact on the environment and protect our planet, it is crucial that change and development is seen across all groups. But it must be remembered that packaging’s primary role is to protect products and, for food products, to extend their shelf life. We need to be clear that packaging is a good thing, it just needs to be sustainable and disposed of responsibly.
Consumers’ expectations for sustainable packaging is increasingly mounting. Pro Carton’s survey revealed the environmental impact of a packaging material affects the purchasing decisions in 75% of European consumers2.
The EU Commission and national governments will play a key role in making it more attractive to use sustainable materials, which is what consumers want. Our survey showed that 71% of consumers believe that governments should provide more information on environmentally friendly packaging. Quite simply, Governments need to encourage the use of materials that meet the requirements of circularity – renewability and recyclability, whilst discouraging the use of materials that aren’t!
For more information on the benefits of carton and cartonboard, visit www.procarton.com or join the discussion on social media: Follow Pro Carton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pro_carton Like the Pro Carton Facebook page: www.facebook.com/procartoneurope/ Join the discussion on LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/company/pro-carton Visit the Pro Carton Pinterest board: www.pinterest.co.uk/procarton/
Notes to editors:
For further information, please contact the Pro Carton press office on
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About Pro Carton
Pro Carton is the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard manufacturers. Its main purpose is to promote the use of cartons and cartonboard as an economically and ecologically balanced packaging medium. www.procarton.com