Study on the Recyclability of Cartonboard


A new study on the ProCarton website explains an experiment that tested how many times Cartons/Cartonboard could be recycled and the effect on the properties of the cartonboard after numerous recycling cycles.

This post is a summary of the key elements of this study. The study was carried out by Dr Rene Eckhart, at the Graz University of Technology in Austria. You can read the full report here.

Purpose of this Study

The purpose of this study was to examine the development of a fibre blend (i.e., paper/cartonboard) used for the production of white lined folding box board and test if, and how this fibre blend changed over 25 cycles of recycling.

Reason for this Study

The author states the primary reason and benefit of the study is that, as part of the drive be more sustainable, it is important to increase recovered paper collection rates and following on from that, it is important to find “whether and how the fibre properties change as a result of repeated recycling and how frequently recovered paper fibres are recycled in order to keep them suitable for cartonboard production.”


The author lists a number of interesting facts including:

Recycling Rates by Material Type in 2019

  • Paper, board and cartonboard 85%
  • Metal 81%
  • Glass 76%
  • Plastic 40%

Source: Eurostat

Where Recovered Paper is used: “Recovered paper, is the most important raw material for the production of paper, board and cartonboard in Europe, its share is over 54%.

Recovered paper is mainly used in newsprint and packaging materials such as corrugated base paper, folding boxes and packaging paper. While newspapers and corrugated board are produced from almost 100% recovered paper, the amount of recovered paper in folding boxes is significantly lower at around 35%”

Grades for Paper/Board depending on Amount of Recycled/Recovered content: “Due to product requirements and food regulations, the range of grades is divided into products that are largely produced from recovered paper (GT, GD cartonboard) and those based on virgin fibre (GC and GZ cartonboard)”

“When it comes to producing GT/GD cartonboard based on recovered paper, mainly mixed recovered paper from household collections is used, with varying proportions of newspapers and magazines, and packaging materials such as corrugated board boxes and folding boxes.

The number of times paper / cartonboard can be recycled is mostly determined by the loss of fibres during the recycling process. “As far as the technological development of fibre is concerned, the key points are that fibre changes mainly in the first two to four recycling cycles in terms of water retention capacity and strength potential, while the additional changes are marginal”

Myth about Number of Times Paper/Board can be Recycled

The myth that the maximum number of possible recycling cycles for paper fibres ranges between 4 and 7 is debunked in this study paper.

Existing Study on Repeated Recycling Effects on Corrugated Board

This study is based on a previous similar study by  Putz H.J and Schabl S. on the Repeated Recycling Effects on Corrugated Board. This study explains in detail how this previous study was conducted and the conclusions from that study, including how the water retention and mechanical properties of the corrugated board changed as a result of repeated recycling.

Material Content of the Board Tested

  • Top liner: 30 g/m², white files and shavings
  • Underliner: 35 g/m², mixed recovered paper and packaging
  • Filler ply: 213 g/m², 75% mixed recovered paper and packaging, 25% RMP
  • Back ply: 40 g/m², 50% mixed recovered paper and corrugated board, 50% own waste

The reasoning for the use of this combination of materials is explained in detail

Test Methods Explained

The process by which the 25 recycling cycles were simulated in the laboratory are thoroughly explained also.

Results of the Test and Conclusion – this fibre blend can be recycled 25 times

The results are the test are explained with a number of graphs, including some showing the changes in water retention and coarseness over the course of the 25 recycling cycles. The author concludes that “no negative effect on the mechanical properties in question can be demonstrated in this study”.

Any factors that may have affected the study results are listed but the author maintains that “on the basis of this study that the fibre itself allows recycling over 25 cycles without further difficulty and that no limiting trend can be foreseen in this study”

Contact Dollard Packaging for Help with Sustainable Packaging Projects

We can help you create carton or sleeve that is both sustainable and fit for purpose. Talk to us on 01 – 847 0044 or email us at

Read the full study here.