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How To Recycle Cardboard

Posted by Junk King on Jan 6, 2023 8:00:00 AM


[This article was first published in October 2019 and has been revised and expanded.]

For most of us, recycling is just throwing our recyclables into the right containers. But what about large amounts of junk like empty boxes? Do you know how to recycle cardboard properly?

After the holidays many homes and businesses can find themselves inundated with waste cardboard and paperboard from packaging and other materials. And disposing of it all can be a challenge.

Learn about the importance of recycling.

Cardboard: Prince of Papers

As we’ve noted in other posts, there are multiple items that can be recycled. In addition to the most common materials - paper, glass, metals and plastics - there are also many furniture items and appliances that can be recycled, not to mention lawn care equipment.

However, cardboard is not only one of the most common types of recyclable materials, it’s also one of the most valued. According to Earth911.com,

Corrugated cardboard is the highest value grade of paper, as its durability means long paper fibers. This also helps explain why it has the highest recycling rate of paper products: 92.9 percent in 2015.”

It’s estimated that over half of the cardboard recycled is used to make new cardboard boxes. In addition, many types of cardboard can be “downcycled” into paperboard material to be used for cereal boxes and other containers, and chipboard like that found in shoeboxes, for example.

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“Cardboard” is the term used to describe most boxes, however, shipping boxes are technically called “corrugated cardboard.” The extra layer of fiber that zig-zags between the outer and inner layers is the corrugated piece. This makes it tougher to tear and sturdier for shipping.

“Paperboard”, on the other hand, is thinner and less sturdy and used for cereal boxes and other products. These two different grades of paper have different commodity values.

Recycling all types of cardboard is valuable for preserving natural resources since producing one ton of virgin cardboard requires three tons of trees for raw material. And, by recycling cardboard, you also help minimize landfill use since one ton of cardboard requires nine cubic yards of landfill space.

Depending on where you live, cardboard recycling may be mandatory anyway.

According to a post at Classroom.com,

“Although the federal government doesn't mandate recycling, some states have taken steps to ensure that paper is recycled locally. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have all passed laws requiring that all paper grades are recycled.”

furniture removal guide group 2

So, How Do You Recycle Cardboard Anyway?

While small cardboard items such as food packaging and cereal boxes are easy enough to dispose of, larger or more substantial cardboard products need a bit of proper handling prior to recycling. 

The website at Earth911.com offers these tips for cardboard recycling preparation:

  • Use a knife or scissors to cut any tape used to seal the top and/or bottom of the box, then collapse the box. You don’t need to remove the tape, but most recyclers prefer that boxes are flattened to save space.
  • For boxes that contained huge items, you may need to fold or cut the flattened box in half for it to fit in your recycling cart. Some programs also allow you to set large boxes next to the cart, but don’t put them out if it’s raining. Wet cardboard doesn’t have a recycling market.
  • For boxes that are food-soiled (such as pizza boxes), cut out any oil stains before recycling. Food-soiled paper doesn’t have a recycling market.

Keep in mind that if you have far more cardboard waste than you can fit into your recycling bin, you can have professional junk hauling firms like Junk King come and pick up your cardboard for you. Also keep in mind that not every cardboard item is suitable for recycling.

However, recycling is still the Number One preferred method for disposing of used cardboard and paperboard materials. And, with that in mind, we have put together this hand checklist guide for recycling cardboard to help you along the way:


Cardboard Recycling Checklist

The good news is that, in the right conditions, all cardboard and paperboard is recyclable. The bad news is that in the wrong conditions, some of it cannot be recycled by standard processes.

A post at The Spruce notes that,

“Other cardboard items, such as juice containers, milk cartons, and some produce boxes, are coated with wax or similar substances. This often affects their ability to be recycled. So check these containers for a recycling symbol—typically a triangle composed of three arrows—as well as any instructions (e.g., "rinse and replace cap").

Some collectors also will not take cardboard or paperboard that's wet. That's because wetness weakens cardboard fibers and makes it less valuable for recycling centers. It also adds unnecessary weight to the cardboard that many centers don't want to pay for.”

Fortunately, there are other ways to “recycle”, or reuse old cardboard waste that can’t be recycled in the traditional fashion. In fact, cardboard can be used for a number of gardening and compost purposes. If you can shred your cardboard waste you can use it in your landscaping as mulch, or simply donate it to a compost facility.

One of the most common sources of waste cardboard, or paperboard, are beverage cartons. In places such as Canada, for example, cartons are collected along with other recyclable materials. They are then transported to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where they are sorted and baled. From there, they are sent to a paper mill or to a facility that manufactures sustainable building materials.

Here is an illustration of one of the cardboard recycling processes:

recycling-of-used-beverage-cartons[Graphic courtesy of RecycleCartons.ca]

While different facilities may use slightly different processes, the basic concept remains the same: waste cardboard is reduced to it's base components, repulped, and regenerated into new products. And as technology continues to progress, new methods are being introduced that promise to increase the types and overall volume of waste cardboard that can be recycled.

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Professional Eco-Friendly Junk Removal 

Sometimes your recyclable junk is too large for your residential or office recycling bins. Or perhaps you have large items in addition to your cardboard and plastic waste. This could be appliances, mattresses and other items that you want to have hauled away for proper recycling and disposal.

That's when you need professional green junk removal services.

Your junk removal partners at Junk King provide efficient, safe and eco-friendly waste disposal services so you don’t need to worry about pick up and green junk removal.

Whether you need our services several times during a large clean-up project or just once after it's complete, our hauling professionals will ensure that your business junk is out of your way so that you can get on with the job.

In fact, our team specializes in green junk removal.

We can be at your home or office 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.

One of the best things about hiring Junk King is that we recycle much of the material we pick-up. This is proof of our commitment to being an eco-friendly removal service. 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: Recycling, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, household waste, recycle cardboard, paper recycling, cardboard recycling, paperboard recycling

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