According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 77 percent of all cardboard is recycled. However, not all cardboard can be recycled and it can become tricky remembering which is recyclable and which isn’t. Here are tips and advice for recycling cardboard.
There are two kinds of cardboard. The first is known as corrugated cardboard which is used to make brown packing boxes. You can identify it by the wavy inner layer of cardboard, making it a kind of three-layer wall of cardboard. The other type is called paperboard (sometimes called chipboard). It is a single layer of grey cardboard that's used to make things like cereal boxes, shoe boxes, and other single wall packages.
In most cases, cardboard boxes can be recycled, recycling collectors often require that cardboard boxes be flattened before collection and bailing. Things like tape, labels, and other items can all be left on the cardboard (they'll be removed at the recycling centre). Staples may need to be removed beforehand. Some collection companies require cardboard to be tied or taped together, this is usually to prevent the wind from making a mess. When you start to recycle cardboard you will be amazed by the number of boxes you throw away each week. It's a common way to package many household products.
However, corrugated cardboard and paperboard can't always be recycled. Pizza boxes and other food containers are often contaminated with grease, rendering them useless for recycling. Other cardboard containers are coated with wax or other substances to give them more strength when wet—these usually can't be recycled, either. Juice containers, milk cartons, and some produce boxes are resin- or wax-coated and are not always recyclable.
Some collectors will not take cardboard or paperboard that's wet. In all cases, check with your local recycling centre.
If you can't recycle cardboard, there might be other uses for it around your house. If you compost, cardboard can be used in your compost pile. It can also be used to line garden beds or as mulch for weed control. And, of course, you can reuse it as a cardboard box for shipping or storage.
Recycling cardboard is a more sustainable option than cutting down trees to make virgin paper or cardboard products. For more specific information on recycling in your community, check with your local recycling centre. You can help keep the Earth healthy with simple steps like reusing your shoe boxes.