(Jan. 11) Cardboard boxes aren’t reusable plastic containers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t recyclable.

That’s a message the Indianapolis-based Corrugated Packaging Alliance wants to deliver to the nation’s grocers.

The alliance is in the midst of a month-long marketing push to get the word out about a new recyclability standard for corrugated shipping containers.

In October, the corrugated industry ratified a voluntary standard establishing repulping and recycling requirements for wax boxes and containers that have been treated for water and water vapor protection. About half of all such boxes in production are used to pack fresh produce.

The thrust of the marketing campaign is to show retailers how recycling is more than just good for the environment, said Dwight Schmidt, the alliance’s executive director. It can help save money, too.

Not that the environmental message isn’t important, though.

“Corrugated enjoys an excellent track record in recycling, but often it is overlooked when unbalanced comparisons are made to RPCs,” Schmidt said. “Corrugated recycling is not ‘disposal’ as it is sometimes portrayed by plastic proponents. It is a reusable product in a very real sense that is made from a sustainable resource.”

Corrugated fiber is “up-cycled” to make new corrugated, so referring to corrugated as a disposable product is unfair and incorrect, Schmidt said.

David Rodgers, senior vice president of Orbis Corp., Oconomowoc, Wis., and president of the Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition, Washington, D.C., and Jeanie Johnson, the coalition's executive director, praised the corrugated industry’s embrace of new recycling technologies but said the Environmental Protection Agency favors reusable containers over single-use recyclable ones.

The new recycling standard helps retailers maximize their recycling revenues by requesting packaging that is certified recyclable, Schmidt said.

He added that the effort is just the latest example of the alliance’s commitment to increase the amount of corrugated that gets recycled. Currently, about 73% of corrugated gets recycled — more than any other packaging material, Schmidt said.

Retailers already are beating that number, Schmidt said. With the new standard in place and with help from the alliance’s marketing, they should do even better.

“The 73% figure represents all corrugated recovered from all sources, including consumers, businesses and retailers,” Schmidt said. “Already we estimate that 90% or more of the corrugated being used by grocery retailers is recycled. As those retailers begin to specify, use and then recycle new, certified-recyclable corrugated packaging in place of nonrecyclable wax that is commonly used today, they should be able to recover almost 100% of the corrugated they receive.”

The marketing materials from the alliance include free, bilingual posters alerting grocers to what’s recyclable and what’s not. The poster directs retailers to recycle if the box has one of four different symbols. An 800 number is printed at the bottom of the poster for those with questions.

The alliance has printed 25,000 posters and is offering them to retailers in whatever quantities they specify, Schmidt said.