Last month, my blog highlighted the importance of recycling pizza boxes to be used in the manufacturing of new corrugated boxes.  This month, as wildfires continue to burn in the western US, I thought it was important to recognize the need for new fiber that enters the corrugated system through sustainably managed forests.

As a manufacturing sector, wood products including corrugated packaging, rely on trees harvested from managed forests as a renewable raw material source.  We need both new and recycled fibers to maintain a balanced circular system.

In the US, 3.2 million seedlings are planted each day becoming 1.2 billion seedlings planted each year. These seedlings eventually become forests. One-third of US landmass, or 751 million acres, are classified as forestland. Of this, 504 million acres are classified as timberlands. These timberlands are managed forests, many of them on family-owned and operated tree farms.

On these farms, the crop is trees instead of corn, beans, or other agricultural commodities. Like other crops, seedlings which have a 20-30-year growth span, are planted to harvest. Ninety-one percent of the trees harvested in the US are from privately-owned farms – not National parks or naturally open spaces.  On these farms, selective harvesting, thinning, brush removal and pruning are some of the sustainable management practices used to help protect the forest from the leading causes of deforestation which include wildfire, disease, and insects. 

According to the Washington Forest Protection Association, scientific research shows that proactively managing forests can restore ecosystem health and improve habitat quality. Harvesting and thinning practices used by foresters to thin out forests crowded with too many trees, branches and undergrowth can help reduce wildfires, continue to be a natural habitat for wildlife and streams, absorb enough CO2 to offset 11.3 percent of the nation’s emissions annually (according to a 2020 report from the Environmental Protection Agency), and provide recreation for outdoor enthusiasts.

Across the western United States, wildfires have already burned a record 9 million acres this year.  As our thoughts and prayers go out to communities in California, Oregon, Washington, and other states, we are also again reminded of how important sustainably managed forests are to our industry.

Together, we should be proud to be part of an industry that values forests and works along with Mother Nature to take care of them. We should also be proud of our manufacturing processes that ensure we balance our needs from the forest with recycled fibers and work toward efficiencies that strengthen our already circular approach to sustaining forests.

This past week, the American Forest & Paper Association encouraged members and industry colleagues to donate to wildfire relief efforts to support affected communities. The American Red Cross has organized a wildfire relief fund, which is helping thousands of people find food and a safe place to stay during this time of uncertainty. More information can be found here on the Red Cross website.

Stay safe and well,
Rachel Kenyon
Senior Vice President
Fibre Box Association