The Role Recycling Plays in Reducing Carbon for Businesses

Recycling and protecting the environment go hand-in-hand. As well as the positive impact recycling has on reducing waste and pollution, it can also be one of the quickest and simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint too.

When you first start to consider reducing your carbon footprint, you may initially look at your own operations to become more sustainable, whereas it is often more likely to create a bigger impact by reducing carbon from your supply chains. 

Climate change is one of the biggest forces currently reshaping our planet; that’s why our Purpose is ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’. In fact, in a recent website survey, reducing emissions was the biggest single action people wanted to see from COP 26. 

Slowing climate change means decarbonising the global economy and at DS Smith we are committed to reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050, with a 46% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, based on 2019 levels. We also recently announced our ambitious commitment to align our global operations to a 1.5°c temperature alignment scenario as set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. As Europe’s biggest cardboard and paper recycler, our Recycling and Waste Management solutions are already playing a part in helping us meet our targets.

By reducing  our own carbon emissions, we are also cutting those of our partners, customers, and suppliers, so we can all play a part in making a difference together.

Here are some of the ways our recycling solutions can help cut carbon.

Cut carbon by closing the loop

According to a recent Life Cycle Analysis it takes 70% less energy to recycle paper and cardboard than it does to make it new from raw materials. Wherever energy is saved, so is carbon.

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At DS Smith, we are keeping over 6 million tonnes of paper and cardboard in the supply cycle every year, avoiding incineration and landfill . The material collected by our Recycling Division is recycled and turned into new cardboard packaging within 14 days, creating a real closed-loop solution for our customers.

By working with us to divert your recycling out of incineration or landfill, companies can not only benefit from less carbon being used but will also ensure resources are utilised for longer.

See our closed loop recycling solutions in action here.

Cut carbon by protecting natural resources

According to One Tree Planted calculations 1 hectare of trees are capable of absorbing carbon dioxide  at the rate of approximately 4.5 tons per year during the first 20 years of tree growth.

We are committed to protecting forests and helping our customers meet their zero deforestation goals. Not only do we use 100% recycled or chain of custody papers in our products, but we can also recycle paper up to twenty-five times.

In addition, we’re partnering with One Tree Planted to plant more than 50,000 new trees across Europe and North America over the next five years as part of our commitment to protecting biodiversity and supporting the natural environment. This partnership is a new addition to the existing forestry and tree planting activity across our company.

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We are dedicated to preserving biodiversity, which is why last year we committed to funding 100 Biodiversity projects as part of our Now and Next sustainability strategy. Recent examples of protecting the natural areas around the places we operate include the planting of trees and flowers in local kindergartens in Kruševac, Serbia, in Belgrade, enhancing the local ecosystem around Aschaffenburg Paper Mill,  and transforming the garden of De Vitaminebron School, in Oostzaan, Netherlands to provide a unique and sustainable learning experience.

Cut emissions by sending less waste to landfill

CO2 is only one of the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Methane is another greenhouse gas that’s 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and is produced when organic materials, including paper, decompose under the anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions present in landfills.  

Landfills are currently the second biggest contributor of man-made methane after the farming of livestock. A UN report published in May 2021 found that immediate reductions in methane emissions are the best, swiftest chance the planet has to slow climate change. And because we are so focused on recycling, less waste is going to landfill, which ultimately means less methane is generated.

Cut carbon by tackling single-use plastics

Estimations indicate single-use plastics could be responsible for 5-10% of all annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


Our new cross-divisional Recyclability Forum, chaired by our Recycling division is steering the work of our Sustainability, Innovation, Design, Research & Development and Technical Operations teams to ensure we are aligned on our approach to recyclability both within DS Smith, and when collaborating with our customers and industry associations. Through this approach we are able to develop new packaging concepts and technical advances that will help us close the loop on problem plastic and remove over 1bn items of plastic from the supply chain by 2025. By tackling our own and wider industry’s biggest recyclability challenges, such as hard-to-recycle packaging, changing legislation and industry guidelines, we can continue to support company’s sustainability goals too. By eliminating a high volume of single-use plastic, we can pass on the carbon savings to our customers in this way too.

Cut carbon to increase business efficiency

Inevitably, recycling creates carbon emissions in itself – from the fuel used by collection vehicles, to the energy taken to make recycled fibre back into paper. We have made significant investment to improve our processes and infrastructure to ensure we offer greener recycling solutions and produce net emission carbon savings. This is particularly apparent in our paper mills where we have invested significantly in latest technologies to improve the efficiency of paper making.

We have a proven track record in helping customers to segregate their recycling, limit contamination, and boost recycling rates, which in turn can support significant improvements in revenue streams and business efficiency.

You can also read more about our investment in more efficient energy and renewables.

Cut carbon with us

Living in a world where we only adopt a 'take-make-waste' mindset is no longer sustainable. We’ve been helping organisations of all sizes across Europe with their recycling and waste management challenges for decades, and as we transition to a circular economy, we are now helping them with their sustainability challenges too.

The responsibility of decarbonising our world to mitigate against climate change rests with everyone. No single person, government or business can achieve it on their own.

Jonathan Edmunds
Recyclability & Sustainability Manager

Jonathan continued ''This is why we place such importance on partnership and collaboration with our suppliers, customers, and the communities in which we operate to reduce carbon wherever possible. It is why we clean up our communities, educate young people on the circular economy, and work with partners on hard to recycle packaging solutions. Through reduction of waste, closed loop recycling and adoption of innovative carbon cutting technologies, we can help reduce the carbon impact of our own operations, as well as that of our suppliers and customers’’.