Facts About Recycling Cardboard Boxes

Written by karen sweeny-justice
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Facts About Recycling Cardboard Boxes
Cardboard boxes can be recycled. (carton image by Unclesam from Fotolia.com)

Cardboard is the packing material of choice in all industrialised nations. In the United States alone, 85 per cent of all products sold to consumers come packed or shipped in cardboard. Recycling cardboard is environmentally sound, helps reduce carbon footprints, and makes economic sense in tough times. Companies that recycle cardboard save money on garbage collection and disposal costs.

Cardboard and Landfills

Cardboard in landfills is referred to as old corrugated cardboard (OCC), and will break down given three or four months in the right environment. Too much OCC takes up limited space and is not environmentally sound. Nine cubic yards of space is saved for every ton of cardboard recycled.

Facts About Recycling Cardboard Boxes
Don't toss that cardboard; recycle it. (garbage image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

Recycled Vs. New Cardboard

Making a cardboard box by recycling OCC takes only 75 per cent of the energy that it takes to make a cardboard box from wood pulp from harvested trees. Sulphur dioxide, an air emission that causes both health and environmental concerns, is lessened by recycling.

Facts About Recycling Cardboard Boxes
Pallets for recycling. (recycled cardboard image by Gale Distler from Fotolia.com)


What consumers think of as cardboard includes packaging like cereal boxes, tissue boxes and shoe boxes. These are actually not OCC but paperboard, also known as boxboard or chipboard. This category of cardboard can be recycled with ordinary paper.

Wax-Coated Paperboard

Milk cartons and juice containers coated with wax to prevent leaking are recyclable, yet most communities that collect for recycling will not take them. Equipment varies at each processing centre, but the key to recycling wax-coated cardboard is cleanliness. These cartons must be rinsed or they will start to decompose before they get to the recycling centre. The city of Boulder, Colorado, is one community that does recycle wax-coated paperboard.

Sorting It Out

In areas where mixed recyclables are picked up together, cardboard is sorted from glass, paper, plastic and aluminium at the recycling centre. Some recycling programs collect cardboard by itself. Either way, once the cardboard arrives at the recycling centre, it is pulped or broken down into smaller pieces and mixed with new wood pulp. It is screened, rolled, dried and pressed into cardboard layers that are sold to paper companies that make corrugated cardboard boxes.

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