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How & Why You Should Recycle Cardboard Properly

June 15, 2023


The world has changed in many ways over the past few years. For many of us, the pandemic changed how we work, where we live and how we interact with each other. But there are changes in other parts of our lives that we’re not so aware of.

One of those is recycling cardboard.

A Massive Increase in How Much Cardboard We Use

Online shopping was popular well before the pandemic. But, by having to stay home, online shopping became almost a necessity for many of us after the pandemic hit. The increase meant an increase in packaging requirements too. And it was an exponential increase.

While cardboard packing had long been used to protect large shipments of products, now it was being used to protect individual items in many cases. And, while cardboard boxes are available in a variety of sizes to protect different sizes and types of shipments, it wasn’t possible to create different sizes for each smaller shipment. So, to make sure smaller items got to their destination intact, they were placed in larger boxes that were then stuffed with wrapping, like bubble wrap, to keep the items from moving around.

So, not only did we start using more cardboard packaging, the packaging was larger too. To get some idea of the increase, in New York City, 15% of curbside recycling was cardboard 15 years ago. Today, it’s almost 50% cardboard.

The Problem of Recycling Cardboard

It’s easy to think that there’s no cardboard recycling problem because of how recyclable it is, right? After all cardboard shipping boxes are plain, uncoated paper. But recycling problems begin when we contaminate the cardboard. And we can all contaminate cardboard unintentionally.

One of how that happens example is a pizza box. Grease from food, or anything else, contaminates cardboard so it is more difficult or impossible to recycle. Many municipal recycling guidelines tell us to place soiled pizza boxes in the green bin organic waste. This is done to not only eliminate contaminated pizza boxes from recycled materials but to prevent the pizza box from contaminating other cardboard that is ideal for recycling.

When we recycle a soiled pizza box, it creates two additional costs. First, the soiled cardboard must be identified and removed from the recycled materials. Second, we add to the amount of soiled material when the pizza box contacts clean cardboard.

Those costs, and the sheer increase in the amount of cardboard materials in our recycling, create a strain on municipal recycling programs. So much so that much of the cardboard we recycle ends up in the regular trash.

Why We Need to Properly Recycle Cardboard

The following numbers highlight the biggest reason for properly recycling cardboard.

  • It takes 3 tons of trees to manufacture 1 ton of virgin corrugated cardboard
  • We eliminate 243 cubic feet (more than the total space occupied by a large SUV) of the landfill by recycling one ton of cardboard

Of course, there are many other hidden benefits. These include less cost and environmental impact to harvesting and transporting trees, manufacturing virgin cardboard, disposing of cardboard and maintaining landfills.

How to Recycle Cardboard Properly

The basic way that we all can improve how we recycle cardboard is to follow our local recycling guidelines. They can differ from place to place and not being aware of them can contaminate recycling in more ways than just food contamination. In some areas, tape, labels and staples can be left on cardboard, while you must remove some or all of them in others.

Let Papersavers Help

You can increase your company’s green footprint and stay within recycling guidelines by taking advantage of Papersavers’ cardboard recycling services. You don’t even have to bundle the cardboard if you don’t want to!

If you found this post helpful, check out our recent article How to Get Rid of Old Cables.

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