How to Recycle Cardboard

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Definition of Cardboard

Cardboard generally refers to corrugated cardboard: two thin layers of paper glued to a middle ondulating layer of paper. OCC means old corrugated cardboard.
Paperboard (flat, pressed, stiff paper used in cereal boxes, for example)--also often called cardboard by the general public--does not have flutes, is of a lower quality paper, and is often coated. Paperboard, by definition, is not OCC and, therefore, should be kept to a minimum in an OCC collection program.
“Yellow” corrugated cardboard refers to the cardboard that was manufactured in Asia and has a high percentage of recycled fiber content. Because of the high recycled fiber content, it is yellow in color, weaker, and less valuable to recyclers than other corrugated cardboard and is therefore usually rejected by haulers and markets.

Collecting cardboard

For proper recycling and better prices when selling the used cardboard bales:

·Separate any contaminants from the corrugated, including strapping, tape, plastic bags, Styrofoam®, food waste or floor sweepings. Dealers pay the highest price for clean corrugated cardboard.
·Remove any boxes that should not be recycled, especially any that are contaminated by toxic or hazardous materials. Boxes cannot be recycled if they have been treated with plastic extrusions or laminates, wax coatings, etc.
·Some dealers and mills will accept loose material, but large bales are generally preferred.

Potential contaminants: Contaminants that can cause a load of recyclable OCC to be rejected by a hauler or market include staples, other types of paper, too much tape, yellow corrugated “Asian” cardboard, waxed cardboard, food scraps or stains, and/or plastic packaging materials.


Old corrugated cardbord is a good source of fibre for recycling. It can be compressed and baled for cost effective transport to anywhere in need of fibre for papermaking. The baled boxes are put in a hydropulper which is a large vat of warm water for cleaning and processing. The pulp slurry is then used to make new paper and fiber products.

Mill and corrugator scrap, or broke, is the cleanest source for recycling. Several technologies are available to sort, screen, filter, and chemically treat the recycled paper.

Many extraneous materials have to be removed. Twine, strapping, tape etc are removed from the hydropulper by a "ragger". Metal straps and staples can be screened out or removed by a magnet. Film-backed pressure sensitive tape stays intact: the PSA adhesive and the backing are both removed together.

Materials which are more difficult to remove include wax coatings on corrugated boxes and "stickies", soft rubbery particles which can clog the paper maker and contaminate the recycled paper. Stickies can originate from book bindings, hot melt adhesives, PSA adhesives from paper labels, laminating adhesives of reinforced gummed tapes, etc.

Recycling corrugated fiberboard helps conserve natural resources and energy. It also helps countries without sustainable wood resources build a paper and packaging industry locally and develop their exports to global markets. Over 70% of the corrugated manufactured is recovered, recycled and made into new corrugated products throughout the world.

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