Today, I want to talk about the process of cardboard recycling so that you can understand how it works. Cardboard boxes are basically made up of a collection of brown paper that is stuck together to form hard walls. They are used to store almost anything and are mainly used for packaging before transportation.

After transportation, the boxes are generally disposed of, which is why they need to be recycled. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how this is done with other relevant information about cardboard recycling.

Paper and cardboard recycling

Image credit: designlifehacks.com

Is Cardboard Recyclable?

Most forms of cardboard are recyclable. There are two primary forms of cardboard – paperboard and corrugated cardboard.

  1. Paperboard: Also known as chipboard, it is typically used to make containers to pack food such as cereals and other consumer goods such as shoes. It is made of a single layer and is more flimsy than corrugated cardboard.
  2. Corrugated cardboard: This type of cardboard contains an inner cardboard layer between liner sheets, making it more durable. This type of cardboard is usually used for boxes sent through mail or courier.

According to the American Forest & Paper Association, used corrugated cardboard has an incredibly high recovery rate. In 2018, the recovery rate reported was 96%, the highest recycling rate of all paper products.

What Cardboard is Not Recyclable?

However, not all cardboard can be recycled. Cardboard such as pizza boxes has oil stains and food particles on them, and they should be thrown in the trash and not in the recycling bin.

Why? Because these substances on the cardboard contaminate the other cardboard in the recycling bin, thus compromising the recycling process and making it difficult to separate oil from the paper fibers.

3 Things You Can do With Cardboard Waste:

You can run an efficient cardboard recycling system with these 3 processes:-

  • Cardboard Collection

    You can appoint a local waste collection company. They can collect your garbage at a scheduled time. This step can save a lot of time and cost if your firm generates a high volume of cardboard waste.

  • Cardboard Shredding

    Buy a cardboard shredder and shred your cardboard boxes to store them effortlessly and submit them easily for collection. You can make your own void packaging material if you wish from this shredded cardboard.

  • Making Cardboard Bales

    A baler lets you compress your cardboard waste in the form of bales which are easy to store and transport to a collection center. Buying a cardboard baler is an excellent long-term investment.

What is Cardboard Recycling?

Cardboards are made from thick sheets of brown paper, which are highly durable and rugged. These papers are recyclable and reusable. On average, single cardboard can be recycled seven times as the paper fibers get shorter with every recycling.

You will read about the step-by-step process of cardboard recycling in our upcoming section.

Why is it Important to Recycle Cardboard?

It is extremely important to recycle cardboard for our requirements before manufacturing the new ones. For manufacturing a single ton of cardboard, the earth losses 3 tons of trees. Moreover, when you recycle 1 ton of cardboard, you save 9 cubic yards of landfill space.

Recycled cardboards give us new cardboard boxes, paperboards, and chipboards without harming the environment. So why not recycle the existing cardboard and contribute to saving our planet and its resources and creating jobs while earning some additional profits along the way!

How to Recycle Cardboard?

Here is a detailed video on how the cardboard is recycled by HOWit’sMADE

Step-by-Step Process of Cardboard Recycling:

  1. Collection

The first step in the cardboard recycling process is collecting the boxes. If you are a company or an office, there are two stages of collection.

The first stage would be collecting the cardboard boxes from the different departments within your office or company. The collected boxes should be stored conveniently, like a warehouse, from where they can, in turn, be collected and transported to the recycling center.

The recycling center is the second stage of collection. You will need to ascertain from your local recycling center about the types of boxes that they are ready to accept. This is because cardboard boxes vary by size and also the kind of material. The center may not be able to process all the different varieties.

Once you have the information from the recycling center, transport the boxes from your warehouse to it.

  1. Sorting

Once the cardboard boxes reach the recycling center, they will need to be sorted. This is done based on the type of cardboard, with the two popular types being boxboard and corrugated board. Identifying these two types of boxes is pretty straightforward.

Boxboard boxes are usually small in size and non-coated. Examples of these would be food packagings such as cereal boxes and milk containers. Corrugated boxes are generally larger, and they are often used as containers for boxboard boxes. For instance, a corrugated box would be used to store a collection of cereal boxes.

Corrugated boxes are coated since they will be occasionally exposed to the elements of weather and need to withstand those factors.

After the sorting is done, they are then baled. For this purpose, machines such as a cardboard baler are used to ensure that the boxes are compressed into compact bales that are easy to handle.

  1. Pulping

Cardboard boxes – boxboard or corrugated cardboard boxes – are made of paper, and paper is made of plant-based fibers. This makes it possible for them to be turned into pulp in a process called pulping. The simplest way to turn boxes into paper pulp is to soak them in water.

Recycling centers will also use chemicals that hasten the pulping process. The pulp that comes out is then mixed with fresh pulp, which is made of materials that are used to create new paper, such as wood chips. It is possible to use recycled pulp alone to make paper.

However, the problem with this is that the resulting paper will be of poor quality. It will look dull and also wear and tear really fast. Fresh materials like wood chips are included in the mix to avoid this problem.

  1. Filtering and De-Inking

Since the pulp is a mix of recycled and fresh paper materials, there will be some foreign objects in the mixture. Glue and tape are the usual suspects, and these can be removed by using filters. Thereafter, any color that the pulp has will also be removed by using a floatation device that employs de-colorization chemicals.

  1. Finishing

We are looking at pulp that is ready to be given the desired shape at this stage. Virgin paper materials are added, followed by drying. Drying is done either on a conveyor belt or table and while drying is in progress, the material goes through a dryer-type machine that will extract all the excess water and give it its final shape.

This is called the linerboard, and it is ready to be used to create fresh boxes and other products.

Now that you know how cardboard boxes are recycled, this knowledge should go a long way in helping you to plan an effective recycling program for your office or company. You could also invest in equipment like balers and compactors if your workplace produces a lot of cardboard waste, allowing you to store and transport it with ease.

What are the benefits of Cardboard Recycling?

  1. Saves Landfill Space

    About 40% of the total municipal waste in the landfill is cardboard waste. By recycling cardboard, the dumping of it in landfills is reduced. It thus reduces landfill space & helps in cleaning the environment and promoting healthy surroundings.

  2. Saves Water

    The papermaking process usually makes use of a tremendous amount of water. So when recycled cardboard is used to create new products, less water is used because the recycled cardboard has already passed through the processing stage.

    80% less water is used when paper products are made from recycled paper compared to when produced from virgin fiber. This means approx. 7,000 gallons or 25,000 liters of water on every ton of cardboard is recycled.

  3. Saves Tree

    Recycling cardboard reduces the number of trees cut down each year for making new paper and cardboard. Deforestation is a significant cause of global warming.

    1 ton of recycled cardboard paper saves about 12 to 31 trees, thus preserving the natural habitat and the ecosystem.

  4. Saves Energy

    Cardboard recyclability is the highest percentage, and therefore the energy required to produce corrugated packing products is low. The energy which is saved can be used to manufacture other resources.

    • Only 75% of energy is used to make new cardboard from recycled cardboard.
    • Recycling cardboard needs 50% less electricity and 90% less water to make them.
    • Recycling cardboard saves energy and materials needed to manufacture new cardboard and reduces environmental pollution.
  5. Saves Resources

    Recycling 1 ton of corrugated containers saves 1.1 barrels (176 liters) of oil, 6.6 million Btu’s of energy, 390 kWh of energy, and 5 cubic meters of landfill. Recycling cardboard can supply almost 69% of the resources the paper-cardboard industry needs.

  6. Creates Job Opportunity

    The cardboard recycling process needs people, right from collecting the cardboard waste until the finished product reaches the market. This creates a lot of job opportunities, thus adding stability and growth to the economy.

  7. Reduces Greenhouse Gases

    Cardboard is biodegradable, which means it decomposes organically. During the decomposition process, it may emit harmful gases. When the cardboard is recycled, the greenhouse gas emission is also reduced.

    750 kg of CO2 is produced when 1 ton of paper is incinerated. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

  8. Preserves Natural Resources

    Since cardboard materials are 100% recyclable and biodegradable, it reduces environmental footprints. While some cardboard is made 100% from recycled materials, the majority of the average at 70% to 90%.

    Due to its highest reuse percentage in making new cardboard products, recycling cardboard helps preserve natural resources.

  9. Promotes the Use of Renewable Materials

    The wood chips materials added are birch or pine tree pulp during the pulping process. These trees are fast-growing and have a high percentage of recyclable content. This means these trees can be managed and harvested sustainably, thus promoting the use of renewable materials.

FAQs

  1. Can cardboard boxes be recycled in a curbside recycling program?

    You need to check with your curbside recycling program. Most programs take cardboards. Remember to flatten the cardboard boxes before submitting them.

  2. What’s the difference between corrugated cardboard and paperboard?

    What you know as cardboard is technically corrugated cardboard. The durable and hard cardboards used to ship items are all corrugated cardboard. Paperboard is a thinner version of cardboard. Paper with lesser grades is used to make paperboard. Examples of the paper board are cosmetics packaging and cereals boxes.

  3. Why can’t wet cardboard be recycled?

    Paper mills pay money on the weight of the cardboard, and water increases its weight. So they don’t want to buy less cardboard for more money.

  4. Can pizza boxes be recycled?

    Yes and no. Pizza boxes can be recycled, provided you put only the top of those boxes for recycling. The rest contains a lot of leftover grease from the food, which may become a problem in recycling.

  5. Are there any states that require cardboard recycling?

    Many states, such as Washington DC and New Jersey, passed the laws for compulsory recycling of paper products.

  6. Can I make money recycling cardboard?

    You can’t make a big deal out of your domestic waste. But if you commercially use cardboard in bulk, you must make a contract with a local paper mill to make money from cardboard waste recycling while reducing your carbon footprints!

  7. What happens after the cardboard is recycled?

    They become brand new high-quality corrugated cardboards or paperboards which can be used for various purposes.

  8. Can waxed cardboard be recycled?

    Waxed cardboards are not for recycling. They can be either decomposed or made into other products. But waxed cardboards are going nowhere as the frozen or ice-packed food products need to be packed in them only. This is because the wax prevents the cardboard from getting soggy.

    Lifecycle of moving boxes

    Credit: Earth911 & Mymove.com