repurposing as a part of your recycling efforts

The Correct Way To Recycle Cardboard

Recycling cardboard seems like a no-brainer: You flatten the boxes and put them in your recycling bin next to your garbage disposal items, and you are done. But even after all these years of recycling practice, you are probably still getting cardboard wrong. Seventy-seven percent of cardboard is recycled, but the other 23% can be problematic, and each recycling center has its own rules about what items they will accept.


Over 90% of the items shipped in the U.S. are packaged in cardboard. In Canada and the U.S. alone, around 1500 corrugated cardboard packing plants are up and running. Over 24 million tons of cardboard is disposed of each year. Recycling a ton of cardboard saves:

  • Landfill space: 9 cubic yards
  • Water: 700 gallons
  • Oil: 46 gallons 

So, either recycle your cardboard or repurpose it as storage in your home. 

Cardboard Types

Cardboard comes in two types: corrugated and paperboard. The corrugated type has three layers, with the inside layer being wavy. Cereal boxes and milk cartons are made from paperboard. Corrugated cardboard is almost always recyclable, but paperboard that is coated with wax or resin frequently is not. You will have to check with your local recycling program to make certain what types of cardboard they accept.

Rejected Cardboard

In addition to rejecting coated paperboard, centers will reject dirty cardboard such as greasy pizza boxes and old take-out containers. The cardboard needs to be clean, so it does not contaminate the recycling batches. Not all places will accept wet cardboard, so be certain to put your recycling out shortly before pickup is scheduled. Also, most places want you to flatten your cardboard boxes before they will pick them up. Unflattened boxes simply take up too much room in the collection truck. 

The Process

Much of the cardboard you use has already been recycled at least once. When it reaches the recycling services center, the cardboard you put out will undergo the following process:

  • Re-pulping, fiber separation, and bleaching, using hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydroxide, and sodium silicate.
  • Screening and cleaning of fibers.
  • Washing to remove ink residue
  • Pressing and rolling of fibers into paper
  • Conversion of paper into boxes or other products

Recycling cardboard takes some care and preparation. You need to check every item before you toss it into your recycling bin. Not every piece of cardboard is acceptable, so contact your local facility and find out the rules before you put your items by the curb. Click for more information about recycling services for your residence or business.