WestRock Co., Atlanta, a provider of differentiated paper and packaging solutions, recently announced it will begin accepting mixed paper bales that contain paper food service packaging at its 100-percent recycled paperboard mills across the United States.
Historically, paper-based food service packaging, which includes items such as single-use cups, takeout cartons and pizza boxes, has not been widely accepted in recycling programs due to concerns over polymer coatings and food contamination. However, as paper mill pulping and cleaning systems have evolved, so has the ability for facilities to accept this type of packaging.
WestRock’s recycled paperboard mill in St. Paul, Minnesota, conducted a trial in 2017 accepting poly-coated food service packaging during regular production. The company’s recycling facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, also began accepting food service packaging in their residential recycling collection in fall 2017. In both trial situations, there was no disruption to the company’s operations from the addition of poly-coated food service packaging.
Food service packaging is a source of high-quality virgin fiber and can add value to residential mixed paper by improving fiber strength and yield, according to the company. Residential mixed paper averages about 65 percent fiber yield and food service packaging typically averages more than 90 percent yield.
“In order for communities to accept food service packaging into their residential recycling programs, they need a place to send it,” DJ Vandeusen, senior vice president of WestRock’s recycling business, says. “WestRock can now take this packaging and turn it into new, usable products.”
“WestRock is leading the way in demonstrating the recyclability of food service packaging and [showing] that it provides a valuable source of fiber to paper mills,” Lynn Dyer, president of the Falls Church, Virginia-based Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), says. WestRock is a member OF FPI. “We look forward to partnering with WestRock to raise awareness of the recyclability of cups, containers, boxes and bags.”
The following WestRock mill locations are currently accepting food service packaging: Aurora, Illinois; Battle Creek, Michigan; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dallas; Eaton, Indiana; Missisquoi, Vermont; Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.