Kraft boxes are a popular and versatile type of packaging that is used in multiple industries.
These boxes come in many different sizes and can be used to package anything from food products to jewelry to larger items such as apparel.
But are Kraft boxes an eco-friendly packaging option?
For the most part, Kraft boxes can be considered more eco-friendly than other packaging materials, mostly because of what they are made of and how they can be disposed of.
In this article, we’ll explore Kraft boxes in more detail to verify why they are more eco-friendly than other types of packaging.
1. What Are Kraft Boxes Made Of?
Kraft boxes are usually made out of either virgin Kraft paper or recycled Kraft paper. The Kraft paper itself is made from at least 80% sulfate wood pulp.
Sulfate wood pulp is obtained by a process called kraft pulping and is a type of wood pulp that results in a stronger and more durable paper being produced than if it was made from a mechanical or other chemical wood pulping processes.
Kraft paper is usually unbleached as well, which also increases its strength as the chemicals used to bleach paper often weaken the fibers and make them less durable.
Being unbleached also gives Kraft paper its signature brown color.
The difference between regular Kraft paper and Kraft boxes is that the boxes are made from paperboard which is rolled out to a different thickness than paper during the manufacturing process.
However, the Kraft paperboard is not quite as thick as other forms of cardboard.
2. Are Kraft Boxes Eco-Friendly?
Although the raw materials used to make paper and paper products such as Kraft boxes come from natural, plant-based materials, the actual process for making paper products is not the most eco-friendly.
Paper and pulp mills contribute to all sorts of negative environmental impacts, including potential air, water, and soil pollution as a result of the chemicals used and the waste products from the manufacturing process.
The mechanical processes used for making paper and Kraft boxes also use a lot of energy, most of which comes from burning fossil fuels, a non-renewable and unsustainable energy source.
With that being said, Kraft boxes can still be considered more eco-friendly than plastic packaging due to what they are made of and how they can be disposed of.
And, if the Kraft boxes are made from recycled Kraft paper, they are more eco-friendly because the amount of processing needed to turn the paper into Kraft boxes is lower than if they were made from virgin raw materials and no trees have to be cut down.
3. Are Kraft Boxes Recyclable?
Like other paper and cardboard boxes, Kraft boxes are 100% recyclable materials.
As long as your local recycling program or facility accepts paper and cardboard products for recycling, you should have no issues recycling Kraft boxes.
However, it’s important to note that since Kraft boxes are sometimes used in food packaging, any Kraft box that is stained or soiled with grease or other food residue can not be recycled.
The grease and food residues can contaminate the recycling stream, so you will need to find another way to dispose of Kraft boxes if they are soiled.
4. Are Kraft Boxes Sustainable?
Even though the actual process for making them isn’t the most sustainable, the Kraft boxes themselves are pretty sustainable because of what they are made of and how they can be disposed of.
Trees are a renewable resource that can be planted over and over again without running out.
And while It’s true that cutting down trees in order to get the wood needed to create wood pulp contributes to some deforestation, a lot of the trees used to make paper are being grown in managed forests.
Not only does this decrease the impact of deforestation, but it also makes the paper products themselves more sustainable even though the manufacturing process itself isn’t the most sustainable.
Plus, some Kraft boxes are made from recycled paper, which lowers the need for more trees to be cut down in order to get virgin raw materials, therefore increasing sustainability.
Kraft boxes can also be recycled themselves as well as disposed of in more eco-friendly ways so that they don’t contribute to more trash going into landfills.
Overall, it’s safe to consider Kraft boxes a sustainable material, especially if you consider the alternatives.
5. Are Kraft Boxes Biodegradable?
For the most part, Kraft boxes are biodegradable since they are made from plant-based materials.
They will biodegrade in as little as a couple of months as long as they are allowed to biodegrade under the right conditions.
If you throw Kraft boxes away in a plastic trash bag and allow them to go to a landfill, they will not biodegrade under ideal conditions.
Going to a landfill can slow down the rate of biodegradation or cause them to biodegrade anaerobically, which releases methane – a very potent greenhouse gas – into the atmosphere.
Or in some cases, they may not biodegrade at all if they are trapped inside a plastic trash bag or buried under lots of other trashed (which is very likely in a landfill).
6. Are Kraft Boxes Compostable?
Composting is human-controlled biodegradation, so if you’re going to let Kraft boxes biodegrade, composting them is one of the best ways to let them biodegrade naturally.
Kraft boxes are compostable and as with biodegradation, they should decompose within a month or two depending on the environmental conditions and the conditions under which you are composting them.
However, paper is a valuable resource, so whenever possible, you should let it go to recycling instead of letting it decompose.
7. Are Kraft Boxes Treated With Chemicals?
Other than the chemicals used in the initial manufacturing of them, Kraft boxes are relatively free of chemicals.
Unlike some types of paper, Kraft boxes are strong enough so that they don’t have to be treated and they are thick enough to be fairly moisture-resistant as well.
Kraft boxes also don’t have as smooth of a texture as other paper products do, so it is harder for them to take chemical coatings and laminates.
Being coated or treated with chemicals would make them less eco-friendly as well because it would lower their biodegradability and recyclability.
8. Are Kraft Boxes Coated With Plastic?
Kraft boxes usually aren’t coated with plastic, although it is possible to coat them with polyethylene to increase their moisture and grease resistance.
Moreover, some of them may come with lids that have plastic windows in order to see the product that is inside of them.
If Kraft boxes are coated or made with plastic lids then they are less eco-friendly and their recyclability is lowered as well since you would have to separate the plastic from the Kraft box before recycling them.
However, as long as the lid itself can be removed from the box, you can still recycle or compost the box itself.
9. Are Kraft Boxes Made From Recycled Material?
In most cases, kraft paper is not made from recycled paper because each recycling process shortens the cellulose fibers.
Short pulp fibers provide less strength than longer fibers, but high tensile strength is often very important for kraft paper.
For this reason, wood with long cell fibers is primarily used for kraft paper – preferably slow-growing softwoods from northern regions like spruce and pine.
On the other hand, kraft paper itself is an excellent recycling paper because it can be recycled very often due to its long fibers.
Having said that, there are some kraft boxes that are made from recycled kraft paper or other recycled, unbleached paper products.
10. Are Kraft Boxes Reusable?
Kraft boxes are reusable as long as they are in good condition and free of stains and tears.
If the box is stained or soiled, especially with food products, it’s probably not a good idea to reuse them for other purposes.
11. How to Dispose of Kraft Boxes Properly
Since Kraft boxes can be recycled, then the best way to dispose of them is through recycling provided that the boxes are in good condition, are free of plastic, and are not soiled.
You can also dispose of them through composting as long as they are free of plastic.
If they do have plastic windows, separate the part with the window from the rest of the box before recycling or composting it.
You can also reuse them if you can’t recycle or compost them but don’t want to throw them away.
If you have no other options available, you can throw Kraft boxes away, although this is not the most ideal or eco-friendly option since they will go to a landfill.
12. Are There Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Kraft Boxes?
There are very few packaging materials that are more eco-friendly than Kraft boxes.
Although cardboard and other paper packaging is more eco-friendly than plastic as well, they are similar in eco-friendliness to Kraft boxes since they are all paper products and made in a similar way.
If you want to be the most eco-friendly when it comes to Kraft boxes, look for versions that are made from recycled materials as these are more eco-friendly than Kraft boxes made from virgin raw materials.
Even though the process for making paper products, including Kraft boxes, is not the most eco-friendly, the Kraft boxes themselves are eco-friendly.
They are made from sustainable materials and can be recycled and composted, as well as reused.
Some Kraft boxes are even made from recycled materials for the most eco-friendly option.
Hopefully, the process for making Kraft paper and boxes will become more eco-friendly as well in the future.