A Business Owner’s Guide to Recycling Cardboard

National Bins on the Job Site

It’s estimated that almost 25 million tons of cardboard is tossed out each year. The good news is that as much as 91% of that cardboard is recycled, making cardboard one of the easiest materials in the world to recycle.

It’s extremely important to properly recycle cardboard. Reason being is it’s made of wood fibres, and producing a ton of virgin cardboard requires 3 tons of wood. So we know recycling cardboard is good for the planet, saves trees, conserves energy and reduces pollution from producing new materials. 

There are 2 types of recyclable cardboard: corrugated cardboard and paperboard

Corrugated cardboard can be easily identified by the wavy inner layer of cardboard and is most commonly used for brown boxes and packaging materials and varies in thickness.

Paperboard is a coated single layer of gray cardboard that’s used to make things like cereal boxes, shoe boxes, and other packages.

*You should note that a lot of cardboard containers are wax coated- for example: juice boxes and milk cartons- there are not accepted as recyclable in many areas*

So, start effectively recycling your facility’s cardboard with these tips in mind:

Have A Separate Cardboard Recycling Stream

It’s all about the organization. Make sure that every recycling and waste station throughout your facility has an additional stream to collect and separate your cardboard. In many cases, most of an organization’s cardboard may come from shipping and receiving due to boxes and packaging, so it makes sense to ensure that these areas have larger bins/ areas to collect these bigger pieces. 

Keep It Dry

Once cardboard is wet can be extremely difficult to recycle and some collectors will not accept cardboard that is wet or damaged. So be sure to make sure you collect and separate your cardboard stream from liquids and keep in a dry, protected area.

Break It Down

It’s always best practice to break down and flatten any cardboard since boxes and packaging can take up a lot of space and quickly fill up your collection stream. Remind your employees to break it down (use images in your recycling labels) so they can be stacked and organized easily within your bin.

Reuse Cardboard For Packaging

The best thing you can do before tossing your cardboard in a recycling stream is to try and reuse the material in your facility. Encourage your shipping department to separate and reuse all cardboard boxes and packaging so they can be repurposed before they are tossed.

Bonus Tip

Can you recycle pizza boxes?

Yes if they are clean. Pizza boxes are normally made from corrugated cardboard which is recyclable. However, most pizza boxes have food debris attached to them and a lot of grease. The grease prevents the paper fibers from binding during the recycling process and this results in a poor quality paper product. This also happens when paper plates and used paper napkins are recycled.

The best way to recycle pizza boxes is to discard any leftover food in your organics collection bin before putting the box in the recycling. Any heavily greased cardboard can be torn off and put in the trash before putting the clean cardboard in the recycling stream.