Cardboard recycling is a very easy and effective way to help the environment and reduce waste. It is the single largest component of municipal solid waste that businesses produce every year.
Corrugated packaging is a $17 billion per-year industry and accounts for the largest segment of the entire packaging industry. Over 90% of all products in North America are shipped in corrugated boxes.
Not surprisingly, old corrugated cardboard (OCC) represents a significant percentage of the solid waste stream, with approximately 90% of OCC packaging coming from the commercial sector.
There are two types of cardboard that can be recycled: corrugated cardboard, which is what most packaging materials are made out of, and paperboard.
Paperboard is not truly cardboard, and is a lower quality paper usually found in cereal boxes, shoe boxes and tissue boxes.
Paperboard is often made out of recycled corrugated cardboard. Corrugated cardboard has three layers — a piece of wavy, or corrugated, cardboard sandwiched between two pieces of flat cardboard.
Why recycle cardboard?
When cardboard breaks down in landfill it creates methane, a major greenhouse gas with the global warming capacity 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Cardboard is one of the easiest and most environmentally effective materials to recycle since the fiber in cardboard has already been processed.
Therefore making cardboard products from recycled material, rather than virgin fiber, saves not only trees, but also large amounts of water (up to 99% less) and energy (up to 50% less). Manufacturing from recycled material also produces up to 90% less by-products such as chemical wastes.
For these reasons, it is important to recycle your cardboard and whenever possible to buy paper and cardboard products with recycled content.
For each kilogram of cardboard recycled, you save up to one kilogram of greenhouse gases.
The benefits of recycling cardboard are similar to those of recycling paper as the raw materials and the process used in its manufacture are similar, i.e.:
1. Prevents the need for virgin materials. By not felling trees, wildlife habitats are protected, preventing the loss of wildlife.
2. Less cardboard sent for final disposal will mean a reduction in the problems associated with the disposal process.
3. Less energy is used when producing recycled cardboard compared to the use of virgin materials.
4. Recycling cardboard produces fewer emissions to air and water, than production of cardboard from virgin materials.
Every ton of cardboard recycled saves:
- 17 trees
- 7000 gallons of water
- 2 cubic yards of landfill
- 4,100 kw/hours of electricity
(Environmental Information Exchange, 2002)
Cardboard can be recycled along with paper and is remade into many different kinds of paper products. Every time paper is processed the individual fibers become weaker, limiting the number of times it can be recycled – usually up to eight times. The lowest grade of recycled paper goes into cardboard products. More than 80% of paper and cardboard packaging is made from recycled fiber. Recycled cardboard can also be made into sound-proofing material, insulation and even furniture.
Paper that has been recycled as many times as the fibers will allow is turned into compost and breaks down naturally.
Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year.
Even though paper consumption has increased significantly, less paper is going to landfills, 11 million fewer tons in 1993 than 1987.
Why Recycle Paper?
Statistics show the following:
A typical office generates about one pound of paper per employee and that from that paper, 77 percent of what is wasted in offices across the country is recyclable.
Most of the paper wasted is high grade paper.
Using old paper to make new paper uses 30 to 50 percent less energy than making paper from trees.
Pollution is also reduced by 95 percent when used paper is made into new sheets.
40 percent of all waste going to landfills is paper. Cutting down on paper waste will extend the lives of our landfills.
Newspaper can be recycled into egg cartons, game boards, new newspaper, gift boxes, animal bedding, insulation and packaging material.
Office paper is recycled into paper towels, tissue paper and toilet paper.
Corrugated cardboard is created into new cardboard and cereal boxes.
With these facts about recycling paper the multiple benefits to the environment are obvious.
By Recycling 1 ton of paper you save:
- 17 trees
- 6953 gallons of water
- 463 gallons of oil
- 587 pounds of air pollution
- 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space
- 4077 Kilowatt hours of energy
(Source: Weyerhaueser Info)
What Can be Recycled
- White paper
- Time cards
- Greeting cards
- Adding machine tape
- Carbon-less forms
- Post-It notes
- Colored paper
- Telephone directories
- Fax and telex copy paper
- Soft-covered books with white pages
- White and colored envelopes with windows
- Manila folders
Cardboard can be recycled along with paper and is remade into many different kinds of paper products.
Every time paper is processed the individual fibers become weaker, limiting the number of times it can be recycled – usually up to eight times.
The lowest grade of recycled paper goes into cardboard products.
More than 80% of paper and cardboard packaging is made from recycled fibre.
Recycled cardboard can also be made into sound-proofing material, insulation and even furniture.
Paper that has been recycled as many times as the fibres will allow is turned into compost and breaks down naturally.
What Cannot be Recycled
- Pizza boxes (unless they have the recycling symbol on them, showing they are made of corrugated cardboard; some pizza restaurants are becoming more eco-friendly)
- Coffee cups
- Candy wrappers
- Paper towels
- Brown and kraft envelopes
- Carbon paper