2022 EcoPaper Database FAQ

Here are detailed answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about our eco-friendly paper and paper packaging sourcing tool, the EcoPaper Database.

What is the EcoPaper Database (EPD)?

The EPD is a free resource on Canopy’s website that helps users easily find paper and packaging products with high recycled content and/or agricultural fibres. Listings in the EPD are vetted and ranked against The Paper Steps tool.

Why should my company use the EPD?

The EPD can help your company easily locate high recycled content and Next Gen paper and packaging grades. You may have heard from some suppliers that certain grades are not available with recycled content, for example, so we’ve done the work for you to identify options that do.

Why is it important for companies to use environmentally-preferred papers?

Forests play a huge role in climate mitigation. It’s estimated that forest conservation can provide over one third of the climate solution that IPCC scientists say is required by 2030. Forests also house 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Yet every year, three billion trees are logged for paper packaging alone1.

At the same time, hundreds of millions of tonnes of agricultural residue (ie. waste straw, flax straw) are burned annually, causing air pollution and choking some of the world’s largest cities.2 Innovative Next Gen Solutions use this ‘waste’ to make everything from paper bags to fashion boxes to takeout containers. 

How many products have been added in 2022?

The previous iteration of the EPD, released in 2020, had 859 listings; this new version has 1,169 individual paper and paper packaging products from all around the world. Of this 1,169, 510 of them are brand-new products that were not previously listed in the EPD.

Where are these products available?

Products listed in the EPD are available in numerous regions around the world. It’s easy to search where to find them by using the expanded filter function located at the top of the EPD table. The database includes products manufactured on six continents, in 34 countries, especially from North America, Europe, India, and China.

Many products are available globally, while others are only available close to where they are manufactured.

Why is it so hard to find 100% recycled corrugated cardboard?

We’ve heard many partners say their supplier told them there is no 100% recycled corrugated cardboard available, so we went looking. The EPD has 23 Superior Ranked corrugated listings. You can find them by clicking the word ‘corrugated’ in the ‘Type’ column of the new Filter function.

How much paper packaging is in this new version?

There are 507 total packaging listings, and 236 of these are new this year. With the much-needed shift away from plastic packaging, eco-conscious companies are going to want to ensure that they are not swapping one environmental problem, that of plastic waste, for another, mass deforestation. Using paper packaging that maximizes the use of recycled and Next Gen inputs reduces the possibility of sourcing products with a high risk of Ancient and Endangered Forest fibres.  Look for Superior Ranked products made from 100% recycled content and lower-footprint Next Gen sources to remove your risk of using Ancient and Endangered Forests.

What are Next Gen products?

Next Generation or Next Gen products are paper or packaging made from alternative fibres like waste left over after the grain harvest, food industry waste, dedicated crops (ideally those that fix carbon in the soil and don’t compete with food crops), and other available feedstocks. This version of the EPD lists products made from everything from grape skins to seaweed by-product. These Next Gen products have the dual benefit of taking the sourcing pressure for paper products off forests, and reducing waste that is already in the system and in many cases would otherwise be burned or landfilled.

A list of the 70 types of alternative fibres can be sorted with the column header or by clicking on the underlined fibre you want to filter.

How many Next Gen products are in the 2022 EPD?

There are 345 total Next Gen products in the EPD, and of these, 127 are new products, not previously listed.

What are some of the 70 types of Next Gen fibre included in the database?

It’s a list that goes from the expected (recycled burlap) to the interesting (banana fibre, linen waste, non-gmo sugar beet residue, miscanthus grass) to the wildly innovative (mushrooms, fallen leaves) to the downright surprising (elephant poo). Other fibre sources include wheat straw and other cereal straws, recycled textiles, hemp, flax, seaweed, food waste, and grass.

Are there new criteria this year?

This version of the EPD is the most rigorous yet; for example, we removed many products with lower recycled content, preferring to focus on the large amount of available paper and packaging with 100% or other high-recycled content. This makes the database slightly smaller than it could be, but of a higher quality of eco-products. The EPD is based on category leadership. For example, there are so many 100% recycled copy papers we did not include those with only 30% recycled content. Packaging grades need to have at least 50% recycled or Next Gen content to be included.

Other new features this year include:

  • A ‘category’ filter so you can search by packaging grades, printing and writing grades, food service ware, sanitary products, office products, and/or pulp.
  • A scan for food contact safety compliance; for example, FDA food compliance or relevant third party verifications
  • A  limited amount of listings with virgin wood fibre, and where wood was included, 99% of the time it is FSC-certified
  • Forest Stewardship Council license or Chain of Custody codes are included (where available) on listings containing FSC-certified forest fibre
  • A scan for PFAS-free verification on food service ware due to the number of national or state regulations being introduced to ban PFAS coating

What does ‘scan for PFAS’ mean?

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of synthetic chemicals (also called ‘forever chemicals’) used as coating on some paper products, including grease-resistant food packaging, which are associated with a range of environmental risks. While manufacturers don’t have to disclose the use of PFAS, Canopy has done some due diligence for you. If we found food service ware products containing PFAS, we did not include them in the database, due to the number of national or state regulations being introduced to ban PFAS coating. Any products that could not be completely verified as PFAS-free are ‘noted’ as such. Canopy recommends verifying with the manufacturer before purchasing.

What type of certification backs up the EPD?

When vetting papers for the EPD we do look for products certified to a rigorous and robust third-party standard that verifies high recycled content (FSC Recycled, Green Seal, EcoLogo, Blue Angel, EU Ecolabel) or FSC Mix for papers with wood fibre. We encourage producers of Next Gen products to obtain RSB certification in order to verify the sustainability of the feedstock.

What about bleaching?

Bleaching method is one of the criteria used in the EcoPaper Database to rank a product against The Paper Steps. But what do the bleaching acronyms mean?

Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) applies to recovered paper fibre and means the recycled and de-inked paper fibres are whitened without any chlorine. Since we value both forest conservation and reducing unnecessary chemical use, we advocate PCF as the most environmentally preferable bleach option.

Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) paper is also whitened without any chlorine bleaching, but can only apply to virgin fibre paper and not to recycled paper.

Enhanced Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) bleaching substitutes ozone or hydrogen peroxide for chlorine or chlorine dioxides as a brightening agent in the initial stages of the bleaching process. This process is inferior to PCF and TCF because it uses chlorine dioxide in the final stages of bleaching. However, compared to the ECF process outlined below, this process is preferable because it further improves the quality of the wastewater and enables recovery of most mill wastewater. Enhanced ECF with extended or oxygen delignification removes more lignin from the wood before bleaching than the traditional ECF method. Therefore, fewer bleaching chemicals are required.

Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) is a bleaching process that substitutes chlorine dioxide for elemental chlorine. Compared to elemental chlorine bleaching processes, ECF bleaching reduces the formation of many chlorinated organic compounds. However, it does not completely eliminate them. 

Learn How to Navigate the EPD with this video.

1Estimated using the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator Version 4.0. For more information, visit www.papercalculator.org.

2 The world’s farmers routinely burn nearly 400Mt of agricultural residues as a clearing and disposal method. In India alone around 90 to 120Mt of residues are burnt each year, generating upwards of 150 Mt of annual CO2 emissions. Further, studies consistently find significant impacts on regional air quality and human health due to associated particulate pollution.

Global stat source: FAOSTAT statistical database (2019), Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), https://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/GB (Accessed April 2022)

India stats sources:

  • Venkatramanan et al. (2021). Nexus Between Crop Residue Burning, Bioeconomy and Sustainable Development Goals Over North-Western India. \italics{Frontiers in Energy Research}. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenrg.2020.614212
  • Ravindra et al. (2019). Emissions of air pollutants from primary crop residue burning in India and their mitigation strategies for cleaner emissions. \italics{Journal of Cleaner Production}. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.10.031

Jain et al. (2013). Emission of Air Pollutants from Crop Residue Burning in India. \italics{Aerosol Air Quality Research}. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.2013.01.0031