Rachel Kenyon Details How Fibre Box Association Helps Maintain a Sustainable Industry

Mon. August 1st, 2022 - by Lilian Diep

ITASCA, IL - Sustainability continues to drive purchase intent as customers—both buyers and end-consumers alike—are putting recyclability and longevity needs as top priorities. Rachel Kenyon, Senior Vice President of Fibre Box Association (FBA), understands these values and took the time with me to discuss how the organization is helping its member companies meet demands through a circular outlook.

Rachel Kenyon, Senior Vice President, Fibre Box Association“People are now thinking about sustainability in terms of a circular economy. When we were first starting to look at sustainability, we were still in the mindset of that ‘take, make, and use’ way of looking at things,” Rachel explains to me. “As we look at a circular economy, it really has put it in the spotlight. It’s truly about a system of making sure that resources remain resources. It’s been interesting to look at how sustainability measures have evolved from not just accounting for the resources that you’re using, but how you continue to use those same resources, so you’re not depleting what is there.”

As Rachel puts it, corrugated is a product made from a renewable resource. It is then collected at the end of its life for recycling to begin that process again. Those same fibers get used again to make another box, which leads to a more sustained resource over time.

As sustainability continues to drive purchase intent for buyers and consumers, Fibre Box Association is putting recyclability and longevity needs as top priorities

And with the fresh produce industry relying heavily on effective packaging to get from field to fork, Rachel and I drew similarities between the two industries as they both have one common origin: a renewable resource as a crop.

“They’re both plant-based products; corrugated boxes are made with three main, natural ingredients: tree fiber, water, and starch. There is a natural synergy between these two industries because our crops are trees, we just have a longer growing cycle,” Rachel continues. “We can plant that same crop on a piece of land to produce the fiber, and once that’s done, we can use that land again to repeat the process.”

Some similar principles of regenerative agriculture are the principles behind sustainable forestry, notes Rachel. When a crop of trees—a forest, if you will—is planted, it’s supporting the soil and biodiversity, which supports sustainable watersheds and a healthier ecosystem. And when a tree is harvested, another one is planted.

Fibre Box Association's corrugated boxes are made with three main, natural ingredients—tree fiber, water, and starch—making them a renewable packaging resource

“The tree farming practice allows them to grow, take in CO2, and get rid of greenhouse gas emissions,” Rachel further explains. “When a tree nears the end of its life cycle, that’s when we harvest it, so it doesn’t become potential tinder for a wildfire.”

In addition, life cycle assessments allow the organization to help improve corrugated containers and the industry over time. FBA released its first corrugated life cycle assessment in 2006. Since then, FBA has released a new study every four years, and the association will soon be releasing its latest and fourth iteration toward the end of 2022.

In producing its boxes, FBA utilizes sustainable forestry to help support the ecosystem

“We’re always on the lookout to make our industry more sustainable, and these life cycle assessments provide the information we need to focus on meaningful improvements and measure our progress,” Rachel tells me. “It shows we are driving down energy and water use, for example. One member company, Green Bay Packaging, is a net-zero water user, which goes a long way in making the corrugated manufacturing process more efficient and sustainable.”

Our land is a precious resource and thought leaders such as FBA are paving the way as we steer our compass toward sustainable and regenerative packaging materials.

Fibre Box Association