We usually split open the packaging tape in a rush revealing the much-yearned or much-needed product you have been waiting for, for days. But once that new product is unwrapped, all you are left with is a used and bulky cardboard box.
What to do with these now? Do we throw these away? No wait, there’s a better way to get rid of the moving boxes. Recycle these, that too in the most sustainable way possible.
But believe it or not, recycling isn’t a very easy process, and can actually get confusing. While some people have designated recycling bins and areas to dispose of their cardboard boxes, others who don’t have these options find it a little difficult.
There are some important facts to know about cardboard recycling, and how you can make the most of your cardboard waste.
Is Cardboard Recyclable?
Most forms of cardboard are recyclable. There are two primary kinds of cardboard: Paperboard and Corrugated cardboard.
Chipboard, also known as paperboard, is commonly used to produce boxes and containers for consumer goods like shoe boxes and food boxes like that of cereals. Made with just a single layer of paper material, this cardboard type is more flimsy and easier to tear or flatten.
On the other hand, corrugated cardboard is used typically for boxes sent through the mail. The brown packing boxes contain an inner layer of cardboard that lies between liner sheets making them more durable.
As per the American Forest & Paper Association, old corrugated cardboard/container, also known as OCC, a recycling industry term referring to used corrugated cardboard, had an incredibly high recovery rate of 96.4% in 2018. This is the highest recycling rate of paper products.
But it is important to note that all cardboard can be recycled. Though theory says they are recyclable, the used pizza boxes with oil stains should not be thrown into the recycle bins. They should rather be used for composting. The same goes for boxes soaked with chemicals from household products and cleaning supplies.
These substances, as mentioned above, contaminate the cardboard and compromise the recycling process, making it very difficult to separate paper fibres from the oils. These spoiled paperboards or cardboards belong to the trash or compost pit.
How to Recycle Cardboard?
The most versatile of the packaging supplies, cardboard, when recyclable is not a very difficult process. Here’s how you can prepare the boxes before recycling.
Breaking Down the Boxes
The first step in the recycling process is to break down the box. Use a box cutter, scissors, knife to cut any tape that holds the box together, that allows you to collapse it easily.
Check and make sure that there are no packaging materials like plastic, left in the box. Flatten it completely. You may or may not remove the packaging labels because most of the recycling centres will do it for you.
If the cardboard waste comes in contact with any sort of liquid, or other contaminants, cut that part out before you recycle. All in all, saturated cardboards are difficult to recycle, so help these recycling facilities by giving them only the dry parts.
How is Cardboard Recycled?
Once the cardboards reach to the recycle facility, it undergoes a process that allows it to be recycled into a new cardboard and other paper products.
First the cardboard must be separated.
After it is separated, it is baled and sent to a recycling mill, where it’s shredded into smaller pieces. Using chemicals, water, and a pulping machine the cardboard pieces are broken down into fibres. Any remaining tape and ink are filtered out of the paper pulp, while the fibres bond together.
Before it reaches a manufacturing state, the pulp is mixed once again with water and pressed and stirred to get the right consistency.
Once the mixing process is complete, the fibres are rolled and dried out which results in huge reels of brown paper that could be utilised to create new products. Some of the brown papers could be used to layer and make thicker cardboard, while the remainder is downcycled or cascaded into other paper products.
All in all, if used wisely, there is no need to waste used cardboards, when you can reuse or recycle it. So, think twice before discarding these highly recyclable materials.