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Cardboard Recycling Done Right: A Checklist

Posted by Junk King on Aug 21, 2020 8:00:00 AM



Almost everything we buy comes in some kind of cardboard package. And all that means quite a bit of cardboard recycling that has to be done. 

The problem is that we often think it's just a simple matter of throwing boxes and packages in our paper recycling bin. But there's more to it than that.

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Is Cardboard Recycling Really That Complicated?

The short answer is, "No."

But there is more to it than most folks realize. And this matters because cardboard has the highest recycled recovery rate of almost any material we throw out.

The American Forest & Paper Association says that Old Corrugated Cardboard/Containers (OCC), the recycling industry term for used corrugated cardboard, had a recovery rate of 96.4 percent in 2018, the highest recycling rate of all paper products.

Also, according to Earth911,

  • Over half of the cardboard collected is used to make new cardboard boxes
  • Additional cardboard can be downcycled into paperboard (used for cereal boxes) or chipboard (used for shoeboxes)
  • Making 1 ton of virgin cardboard requires 3 tons of trees
  • Recycling 1 ton of cardboard eliminates 9 cubic yards of landfill space

Most forms of cardboard are recyclable and there are two primary types of cardboard: corrugated cardboard and paperboard.

Corrugated cardboard is thick cardboard with an extra layer of wavy fiber in between sheets. The extra layer makes it stronger and a great option for shipping or packing boxes. Paperboard, or chipboard, is used for cereal boxes, dry packaged food boxes and cases for soda and alcoholic beverages.

Some cardboard is not recyclable, however. According to a post at PublicGoods.com,

"It’s important to note that not all cardboard can be recycled. While they are recyclable in theory, used pizza boxes with oil stains or food remnants should not be thrown into the recycling bin. The same goes for boxes that have been soaked with chemicals from cleaning supplies or other household products.

Why? Because these substances can contaminate the cardboard and compromise the recycling process, making it harder to separate paper fibers from the oils. Unfortunately, these spoiled paper products belong in the trash (or compost, depending on your home/municipal capabilities)."


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How Cardboard Gets Recycled

First, the cardboard must be separated from other paper products. After the cardboard is separated, it is baled and sent to a mill, where it’s shredded into small pieces. A pulping machine uses water and chemicals to soften and break down the cardboard into fibers.  At this stage, any ink and tape gets filtered out and the paper fibers bond together.

Before it can be manufactured into new cardboard products, this paper fiber pulp is mixed with water once again, and then stirred and pressed to the right consistency.

After mixing, the reconstituted fibers are rolled and dried out to create large reels of brown paper that can then become the raw material to create new products. Some of the material is layered to make thicker cardboard, while the rest is downcycled into other paper products.

However, before your old cardboard ever gets to the recycling facility, it has to be properly disposed of for recycling. 

We created this illustrated checklist to serve as a quick guide for proper cardboard recycling disposal:


Cardboard Recycling Checklist


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Alternative Cardboard Recycling Methods

In addition to putting cardboard in your recycling bin, or bringing them to a local recycling facility, there are many other ways to reuse cardboard.

If you have a garden, shredded cardboard can be added to your compost pile. Be sure the cardboard hasn’t come into direct contact with inedible substances like cleaning or bathing supplies, and make sure that no packing materials end up going in with the cardboard.

You’ll also want to remove any tape, stickers and other adhesives. The good news is that both dry and wet cardboard can be composted. For more composting tips you can go here.

Reusing cardboard materials is also a great alternative to getting rid of them.

Boxes in good condition can be refurbished into storage or moving boxes.If you don’t need them for yourself, perhaps you know someone who does. Don’t forget your kid’s school, thrift stores, or your local community center to see if they could make use of good cardboard boxes.

If you’ve already broken down your cardboard boxes, however, they can still be reused.

Here’s a few ideas:

  • Use under appliances when you move them for cleaning
  • Use them for drip guards when painting or remodeling
  • Cut and tape them to make custom shipping boxes
  • Place them under vehicles to capture oil drips

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Your Best Choice for Large Recycling and Junk Removal

One benefit of having a professional firm pick up your household recycling and other trash is that you won't have it  taking up space. Typically, you can have it taken away that day or the next day. 

Junk King is proud to be North America’s greenest residential junk removal service.

We pioneered recycling-based junk removal in 2005 and have been going greener ever since. We sort each and every job for metals, e-waste, paper, household goods, textiles, furniture and appliances, in our recycling warehouses.

But “going green” also means we donate, repurpose, and reuse everything from clothing, toys, baby cribs and strollers to office furniture and supplies. We run many of our trucks run on biodiesel, a domestically produced fuel made from more environmentally safe non-petroleum, renewable resources. Junk King is committed to continuing to lead the way to help keep our planet clean, green and beautiful for the generations to come.

Our team specializes in trash and junk removal and we can usually be at your home in mere minutes, so call us today! Our crew is fully insured and well-trained, so you can trust them to get rid of your unwanted items in a professional and courteous fashion.

If you have questions about what we do or what we believe, give us a call at 1-888-888-JUNK (5865).


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Topics: residential trash, checklist, recycle cardboard, paper recycling, cardboard recycling

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