Life cycle carbon analysis of packaging products containing nonwood residues:  A case study on linerboard and corrugating medium, TAPPI Journal March 2024 


Application: Readers can use these findings to understand the life cycle carbon analysis of corrugating medium and linerboard made from wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse pulp and perform informed decision-making pertaining to the sustainability of these nonwood fibers and conventional wood fibers under the studied circumstances.

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Author: Antonio Suarez, Ashok Ghosh Fritz Paulsen, and Peter W. Hart
Life cycle carbon analysis of packaging products containing
ABSTRACT: Circularity is creating momentum toward utilizing waste feedstock in a myriad of applications. The paper industry is not an exception to this trend, and packaging products made from agricultural or agro-industrial residues are receiving more attention now than ever. Additionally, negative consumer perceptions of tree felling are accelerating the acceptance of these fibers. Nevertheless, adopting these residues raises the issue of whether they constitute a better alternative to fight climate change than wood. Answering this question is imperative to ensure that pledges to reduce carbon footprints across the industry are fulfilled. This paper aims to estimate the carbon footprint of corrugating medium and linerboard containing wheat straw and sugarcane bagasse pulp compared to analogous wood-based materials. The goal was also to understand how methodological decisions to allocate emissions to nonwood residues can affect the results. This study includes a life cycle carbon analysis spanning from cradle to grave, which comprises stages for residue production, pulping, paper-making, waste management, and corresponding transportation. For the proposed case study, the results suggest that straw- and bagasse-based medium and linerboard can present a higher carbon footprint than products made from virgin and recycled wood fibers. The main driver is the production of nonwood chemimechanical pulp. In addition, the lower capacity of nonwood residues to be recycled increases the overall impact. Finally, decisions around emissions allocation highly influence the results. This study helps mitigate part of the uncertainty around the environmental sustainability of corrugating medium and linerboard made from the selected nonwood residues.

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