Packaging has taken lots of blows recently: blamed for destroying forests, creating waste, and being largely unnecessary. But for corrugated packaging, which accounts for more than 30% of all packaging, nothing could be further from the truth.

The virgin fibres for corrugated board come from sustainably managed forests. Most of the wood used is from forest thinnings and other wood unsuitable for industrial purposes such as making furniture. In managed forests, for every tree cut down, three to four are replanted. It’s estimated that there are 25% more trees in the developed world today than there were in 1901.  Then there’s the argument about the point of packaging.

“There’s simply too much packaging” say some people. But just think about it. Why would companies spend money on it if it weren’t needed? Products need protecting. In the UK, waste due to product damage is under 3%, but in less developed parts of the world it can be as high as 40%. This is all the more significant considering food wastage has 10 times greater environmental impact than the packaging around it. While we can all point to examples of products which seem ‘over-packaged’, it’s quite rare. The vast majority of companies want to make packaging that doesn’t cost a penny more than it needs to.

However, one area we can surely all agree on is that recycling needs to increase. But again, there’s a common misperception that packaging is a major contributor to landfill. In fact, it constitutes only 3% of landfill and this figure is likely to reduce.

More than 84% of corrugated packaging is recycled. And 75% of fibres in cardboard boxes are already derived from recycled paper. Fibres are typically capable of being recycled at least seven times. In the UK, the recycling infrastucture is so far advanced that none of it needs to go to landfill. While any one box may continue to be ‘single trip’ packaging, the fibres are reused time and time again.

It is important that there is a robust debate about packaging and the environment. But this should be based on facts, not myths.

Andrew etson is corrugated sector manager for the Confederation of Paper Industries.