Flexible and resistant, kraft paper has quickly become the preferred packaging choice for many brands. This is a durable, attractive, cost-effective and eco-friendly option that allows brands to create a wholesome, responsible brand identity without compromising on the integrity of their packaging. Kraft paper is made using something called the “kraft process” that differs slightly from the way other wood-based packaging options are made. The very specific pulping method used to produce kraft packaging results in a very sturdy and flexible product that is ideal for everything from stiff boxes to shipping envelopes. Kraft paper products are extremely varied. When sourcing kraft paper, brands will discover that packaging can be fashioned from virgin natural kraft paper, printed kraft paper, colored kraft paper, non-conductive (electrotechnical) kraft paper, sack kraft paper and many more options. Each design offers unique benefits in terms of performance and strength. While some kraft packaging is ideal for wrapping deli sandwiches, other varieties are durable enough to act as holding sacks for concrete.
There’s a lot to say about the ways that kraft paper can reduce costs and streamline the production of product packaging. However, all of those benefits can’t really hold a candle to the main allure of kraft paper. This is one of the best packaging options for reducing the use-to-landfill rate of a brand. What many brands consider to be the biggest appeal of kraft paper is its ability to be recycled. From a reporting perspective, that means higher recycling rates for an organization. As customer attitudes shift toward making eco-friendly purchasing decisions, the ability to offer responsible, sustainable packaging that doesn’t harm the planet has never been more important. Here are some insights about the relationship between modern consumers and sustainable brands that can be important when making decisions about product packaging:
- More than half of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable products designed to be reused or recycled.
- From 2015 to 2019, sustainability-marketed products contributed 54.7 percent of overall CPG market growth.
- Nearly 70 percent of consumers in the United States and Canada think it is important that a brand is sustainable or eco-friendly.
- People are more likely to purchase from purpose-driven brands.
The visual of kraft paper instantly creates that purpose-driven recognition due to its “rugged” and natural look. While packaging made from kraft paper can be made to appear very polished and finished, some brands actually prefer to keep the rough look as part of a brand story that conveys wholesomeness, wholeness and sustainability. The good news for brands looking to switch to kraft paper that need options that are extremely durable and rugged is that going sustainable doesn’t mean settling for a weaker product. Kraft paper is an extremely durable product that can be tweaked to support products with varying degrees of heftiness and fragility. Of course, there is a learning curve for brands that make the switch to kraft. In many cases, it will be necessary to design and implement a new process that is devoted to handling and processing kraft remnants for recycling. While some brands may choose to handle most of the recycling of kraft paper on an in-house basis, this is generally a task where everything beyond the preparation process is handled by third-party recycling experts. Take a look at the basics of recycling kraft paper.
How to Recycle Kraft Paper
Kraft Paper is fully biodegradable. That means that it will decay naturally in the same way that a leaf that has fallen to the ground will decay. However, it’s necessary to have a responsible, thorough system for putting kraft paper through the full recycling process. Here’s a look at the four phases of recycling kraft paper:
- (Phase 1) Collect and Sort: The first step is really as simple as having a consistent, reliable method of collecting all potentially recyclable materials. The starting point for sorting will vary based on the specific characteristics of the kraft packaging used by a company. The fact that kraft paper is fully biodegradable doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire packaging unit is fully biodegradable. The reason for this is that many companies will add glazes, wax coatings or specialty linings. These extra features are there to increase strength, durability and resistance to liquids during the shipping process. As a result, sorting packaging materials to categorize each component by its rate of recycling viability is crucial.
- (Phase 2) Baling: Once your recyclable and non-recyclable components have been sorted, the next step is to get the viable kraft paper baled to create a better way to pack and transport it. In many cases, this involves collaborating with a recycling service provider regarding expectations for the state/configuration that recyclable materials will be in prior to being transported. The goal here is obviously to get the materials in a state that is as portable and easy to haul away as possible.
- (Phase 3) Shipping: This phase is really the second part of the second phase. In most cases, a third-party hauling company will haul away the prepared kraft materials. It will be important to coordinate a schedule for prepping and baling your sorted materials to coincide with routine pickup times.
- (Phase 4) Milling: This is the final step in the process of recycling kraft paper! Again, this is a step that most brands entrust to a third-party recycling company. The final destination for discarded, sorted and prepared kraft paper is a kraft paper factory. It is here where the product will be processed and pulped to create new kraft products! Rest assured that quality-control measures are very stringent at kraft factories that handle recycling. The process begins with all of the kraft paper that arrives being screened for integrity. Next, the kraft paper is cleaned and de-inked. The paper then goes through a process for dispersion and kneading. The last step is bleaching.
The simplicity of the recycling process can vary by product. For instance, kraft packaging that is used for food products can sometimes contain sticky, grainy remnants and deposits on the packaging. There is also a concern about potential contamination issues stemming from bacteria. In addition, oils from foods can impact the length, strength and quality of the fibers within the kraft pulp. There can also be concerns about remnants left behind in kraft packaging used for pharmaceutical products. Fortunately, there are many ways to make recycling viable for essentially any type of kraft packaging by consulting with recycling experts with the knowledge and resources necessary to remediate any concerns about degradation or contamination.
Getting to Know the Three Types of Kraft Paper
When purchasing kraft paper, brands can choose from different varieties. One of the most exciting things about using kraft paper is that you’re sourcing a recycled product that is also recyclable. However, one important distinction to know is that some kraft paper can be recyclable without actually being a recycled product. It all depends on where and how you source your kraft paper within the produce-use-recycle lifecycle.
Option 1: Virgin Kraft Paper
Virgin kraft paper is made directly from wood pulp. The pulp used to produce virgin kraft paper is typically pine or bamboo. While this product can be fully recycled after use, it is being purchased as a newly produced product.
Option 2: Fully Recycled Kraft Paper
With this option, you’re purchasing kraft paper that has been made exclusively from post-consumer or post-industrial recycled fibers. What’s interesting about fully recycled kraft paper is that the chemicals drawn out during the cleaning process are also used for other manufacturing processes.
Option 3: Partially Recycled Kraft Paper
This is a hybrid option that offers eco-friendly, sustainable benefits without being a fully recycled product. With this type of kraft paper, the final product contains a mix of recycled fibers and virgin fibers.
Converting Your Brand to Recycled, Recyclable Packaging: Is It Possible?
The rising popularity of kraft paper makes it clear that it’s never been easier to bring in eco-friendly packaging options without sacrificing the strength and integrity of your packaging materials. There are endless ways to customize kraft packaging to house, protect and display packages in a fully branded way! In addition to boosting brand reputation by aligning your company with sustainable, purpose-driven practices, you’re also tapping into a very cost-effective way to source packaging!