What types of boxes are we talking about?
Various terms are used to describe paper boxes around the world (cartons, cardboard, corrugated, and just plain paper box). The major distinction between them is whether they are corrugated or not. Corrugated means the box has a wavy, ripple-like layer in the middle that gives the box extra strength. For more information on corrugated boxes, visit Corrugated Boxes. The difference between corrugated and other boxes is also spelled out in the PPEC blog: What do you mean cardboard doesn’t exist?
This website focuses on board that is not corrugated, commonly called boxboard or paperboard in North America. It is thin and lightweight and usually used to carry a single item (such as cereal, shoes, a toy). It does not have the wavy middle layer to add box strength.
The many uses of paper boxes
While paper boxes or boxboard cartons are commonly used to contain and protect household goods, they are also used to make cores or tubes, graphic board, partitions and displays. Boxboard also has a non-packaging use as the top and bottom liner in gypsum wallboard products. And of course, kids often use paper boxes for crafts and school projects after their original use.
What are paper boxes made from?
Most paper boxes manufactured in Canada are 100% recycled content, made from old corrugated boxes collected from supermarkets and factories or from curbside; used printing and writing paper, old newspapers, or old boxboard itself. One mill uses virgin material (mostly wood chips and sawmill residues) and another blends this together with recycled fibre to make new boxes. Overall, the average recycled content for domestic shipments is 73 per cent. The industry is thus highly dependent on securing used boxes for further recycling back into new boxes, whether they come from factories or from homes. This is one reason why PPEC is urging Canadian provinces to ban the dumping of old corrugated boxes from landfill (click on Recyclable).
How are they made?
Where are they made?
A packaging mill produces what is generally called boxboard in Canada and paperboard in the US. This board is then shipped to a boxboard or paperboard converter (a box plant) to print, slot, crease, fold, and glue before being filled with product. A used paper box or carton that is sent for recycling in Canada is generally called old boxboard (or OBB). While cardboard is a term commonly used by the public (and even within the industry), technically cardboard doesn’t exist! (See PPEC blog). A box is either corrugated (see Corrugated Boxes Canada) or made from boxboard or paperboard (the type of board described on this website).
By the Numbers
- 1,027 Average number of new seedlings planted per minute in Canada
- 100 Recycled content percentage of most paper boxes made in Canada
- 0.2 Percentage of forest harvested by the entire lumber and pulp and paper industries per year
- 94 Percentage of Canadians who have access to the recycling of old paper boxes (old boxboard)