Coverage and comparability of the datasets
CCB and FEFCO have regularly surveyed the environmental performance of the corrugated industry for more than 25 years. This is the tenth edition of the report. Inevitably, over time the coverage of the surveys has changed:
• Old paper mills and converting facilities have closed and new mills and converting facilities have opened
• Additional mills and converting facilities have opted to participate in the survey, increasing the coverage and representativeness of the datasets
In particular, for the 2020 survey there was a significant increase in the number of mills and converting facilities which contributed data to the surveys:
• 59 mills producing corrugated base papers contributed to the 2020 survey compared to 50 mills participating in the 2017 survey, representing an 18% increase in participation
• 470 converting plants contributed to the 2020 survey compared to 389 converting plants participating in the 2017 survey, representing a 21% increase in participation
This increased participation in the survey means that the weighted averages generated are more representative of average European production, and therefore represents an improvement in the quality of the datasets. However, it also means that comparing the weighted averages across the surveys is meaningless, with trends obscured by changes in participation in the surveys. The weighted average results presented in this edition of the report should therefore not be compared directly with the weighted average results in the previous editions of the report.
Therefore, in order to investigate trends, a comparison has also been made on a like-for-like basis, considering only those mills which also contributed data to the 2017 survey.
Production trends unique to 2020
The data was collected in 2021, representative of the production environment in 2020.
It is worth noting that in some mills and converting plants production parameters during 2020 were affected by the external influence of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, some respondents to the questionnaires reported the following deviations from standard production processes:
• For some mills co-producing energy as a product, external demand for electricity was reduced and therefore there was less sold electricity. As a result, a greater share of purchased fuels and emissions to air are allocated to paper production compared to previous years
• During the pandemic, demand was higher than usual for standard brown boxes. Production of these is more efficient as there is less board waste. This may in part account for the lower board wastage rates at the corrugated converting plants observed in the current survey compared to the 2017 survey.
In addition, it was observed that:
• Corrugated base paper base weights (measured in grams per square metre) have been reduced during this period – and therefore, whilst energy consumption per square meter may have reduced, energy consumption per tonne of production may have increased
• There is a continued drive to improve recycled fibre quality and an increase in sizing and coated papers, which may have contributed to an increase in energy consumption per tonne of production.
It is not possible to ascertain if these trends have influenced the results of the life cycle inventory, but this qualitative information provides some context to some of the results achieved and trends observed.