Are you doing all you can by recycling cardboard boxes?


Cardboard is a convenient and cheap packing material. More than 85% of shipments through the postal service are packaged in cardboard. Cardboard is used to protect everything from small boxes for toys to huge cardboard boxes used for refrigerators and freezers. We even use it to package dry goods and food, but using so much cardboard has a dark side.

Cardboard Goes Bad

Cardboard, just like paper, is made from pulp, which comes from trees. A tree was cut down to make your cardboard box. Discarded cardboard takes up a lot of space in our landfills. This is a very serious problem in most large cities. We actually pay extra tax just to have our garbage disposed of properly. Unlike plastics, cardboard in landfills decomposes and produces methane gas, which is 21 times more toxic to our environment as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Benefits of Recycling Cardboard Boxes

For starters, we won’t need to cut down so many trees to make new cardboard. Since we won’t be throwing them out to the landfill, we are giving them a second and even a third life. This helps, in a small way, to keep our landfills from being choked up with even more garbage. Collected used cardboard and paper in the United States is exported; nearly 40% of these pulp bales are exported to China. In the port of Long Beach, CA, it is their single largest export.

So consider the savings we indirectly make when we separate our cardboard for recycling. Your government won’t ask you for more taxes to dig more landfills, cardboard has a resell profit, and recycled cardboard is so much cheaper overall. And we help save trees, too.

Lifecycle of Cardboard Recycling

First, trees are harvested and brought to the paper mill. Pulp is processed from trees, dried and then flattened to make paperboard and corrugated cardboard. Paperboard is thin and coated with gloss. It is used for cereal boxes, juice boxes, shoe boxes and much more disposable packaging for food. Corrugated cardboard is used for shipping boxes. Used cardboard that is segregated for recycling is returned to the paper mill. Figures in 2007 show that 78% of cardboard boxes were recovered and recycled.

At the paper mill, cardboard is soaked in water and chemicals to make them pulp again. The pulp is cleaned removing glue, staples, plastic coats, and ink. Clean pulp is mixed in with virgin pulp from trees and made into cardboard again. Most recycled cardboard is not really made from 100% used pulp material. But it does take 25% less energy to make recycled cardboard than new cardboard.

Recycle with Boxsmart

Boxsmart is a company that offers an even more cost effective way to recycle and benefit from used boxes. They buy used cardboard for around 76% more. Boxsmart skips the recycling paper mill process and sells used boxes for 43% less than new boxes. This way, Boxsmart reclaims cardboard boxes so they can be used again without exerting 75% of the energy needed to make a new box, proving to be a more environment friendly solution to traditional recycling.