The recycling process turns used cardboard and paper into a pulp that is transformed into new paper items. The bulk of the newsprint, paper towels, toilet paper and storage boxes that people utilize today are a direct result of the efforts of the recycling industry. And thanks to increased government mandates, cardboard recycling has greatly decreased the amount of paper waste that is produced by the private and business sectors of the United States.
During the recycling process, cardboard is soaked in water and then agitated, transforming it back into its original wood pulp state. Any contaminants or foreign matter that are then found in the pulp are removed, and the wood pulp is once again dried and pressed into sheets. Cardboard can sustain this type of process approximately five times before it begins to disintegrate, rendering it useless.
Recycling cardboard and other paper products limits the amount sent to landfills and garbage dumps. It also reduces the pollution created by paper making factories. But an even greater advantage to cardboard recycling is the amount of trees that are saved every year thanks to the increased use of recycled paper by businesses and environmentally conscious people.
There are two types of cardboard that are recognized as recyclable, corrugated and paperboard. The corrugated type is usually brown and double-layered, with a wavy section of cardboard in between. Corrugated is also a heavier weight cardboard, which is why it is often used for shipping and packaging deliverable items. Paperboard is much thinner. It contains only a single layer of cardboard, which is sometimes waxed, and is often used for cereal boxes, soda cartons, cups and plates, and gift boxes.
Large and oversize cardboard pieces must be cut down to a manageable size. If the cardboard is too big, it can cause the mechanisms in the recycling truck to jam. Therefore, most recycling companies insist that cardboard be broken down into individual pieces no longer than 48 inches and no wider than 24 inches.
It is common to find cereal boxes, pizza boxes and milk containers flattened and tied up with other cardboard on recycling day. But because most of these cardboards are wax-coated, the recycling process for these items is different from that of uncoated cardboard, and they should be bundled separately. All recyclables should be grouped according to collection company guidelines. If you are not sure which items are recyclable, contact your rubbish company or municipality.
When recycling cardboard it is important to remove any food, grease or Styrofoam that may be attached to it. All boxes must be broken up, pressed flat and secured with twine or placed in a recycling bin or open paper bag. Cardboard that is saturated with rainwater cannot be recycled.
- Photo Credit Jonae Fredericks