How Cardboard is Recycled: A Process Overview

How Cardboard is Recycled: A Process Overview

Cardboard is a material that we encounter on a daily basis, whether it’s in the form of packaging materials, cardboard boxes, or pizza boxes. While cardboard is known for its convenience and versatility, it’s important to consider the environmental impact of its production and disposal. Recycling cardboard is a process that can help reduce waste, conserve natural resources, and minimize pollution. In this blog, we will explore how is cardboard recycled, its importance, types of cardboard suitable for recycling, and the environmental and economic benefits of recycling cardboard.

Understanding Cardboard Recycling

Cardboard recycling is the process of transforming waste cardboard materials into new products through collection, sorting, processing, and manufacturing. By recycling cardboard, we can eliminate the need for new cardboard production, which requires cutting down trees and energy-intensive manufacturing processes.

The Importance of Cardboard Recycling

Cardboard recycling plays a crucial role in environmental sustainability. Here are some reasons why it is important:

  • It reduces the number of trees cut down for new cardboard products, helping to conserve natural habitats and biodiversity.
  • Recycling cardboard saves cubic yards of landfill space, reducing the environmental impact of waste management and greenhouse gases emitted by landfill waste.
  • By recycling cardboard, we can conserve natural resources, such as wood chips and paper fibers, which are used in the production of new cardboard products.
  • The recycling process of cardboard requires less water compared to the production of new cardboard, preventing excess water waste and harmful chemical processes.
  • Recycling cardboard helps create new materials, like recycled paper and cardboard products, reducing the demand for new resources.

Types of Cardboard for Recycling

Not all types of cardboard are suitable for recycling. Here are some types of cardboard commonly recycled:

  • Corrugated cardboard: This type of cardboard is widely used in packaging materials, boxes, and cartons. Corrugated cardboard has a wavy, corrugated layer between two flat cardboard layers, providing strength and durability.
  • Pizza boxes: Pizza boxes are often made of corrugated cardboard, but recycling them can be tricky due to food stains and oil residue. It’s important to remove any excess food or oil stains before recycling pizza boxes.
  • Cardboard boxes: Cardboard boxes, such as shipping boxes, product packaging, and moving boxes, are commonly recycled.
  • Paper board: This type of cardboard, often used in cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, and egg cartons, can also be recycled.
  • Cardboard waste, office paper, and writing paper can all go into recycling bin, but foreign objects, oil stains, and wet cardboard should be avoided.

Understanding Cardboard Recycling

How is Cardboard Recycled?

The process of cardboard recycling involves several steps, including collection, sorting, shredding, pulping, filtering, de-inking, finishing, and the creation of new cardboard products.

Collection and Sorting of Cardboard

The first step in cardboard recycling is the collection of cardboard waste. Many local recycling centers or recycling facilities have cardboard collection programs where individuals and businesses can drop off their cardboard waste. Collecting cardboard separately from other types of waste allows for efficient recycling.

Shredding and Pulping of Cardboard

Once collected, the cardboard waste goes through a process of shredding, which breaks it down into small paper fibers. Shredding cardboard makes it easier to process and reduces waste volume. These shredded cardboard fibers are then pulped, which involves wetting, heating, and chemical processing. The pulp material from the cardboard is formed into new products.

Filtering, De-Inking, and Finishing

During the recycling process, the recycled cardboard pulp material goes through a series of additional steps to ensure its quality and cleanliness. Filtering removes foreign objects, plastic bags, oil stains, and other contaminants from the recycled pulp material. De-inking is a process that removes ink, dyes, and writing from the recycled cardboard pulp material, leaving behind clean fibers. Lastly, finishing ensures that the recycled cardboard pulp material meets quality standards, making it suitable for new cardboard products.

Creation of New Cardboard Products

The cleaned pulp material is then used to create new cardboard products, such as boxes, packaging materials, paper towels, office paper, writing paper, egg cartons, and more. These new products made from recycled materials not only reduce waste management costs but also have less environmental pollution compared to products made from new materials. Additionally, the production of new cardboard products from recycled materials requires less electricity and emits fewer harmful gases.

Is all Cardboard Recyclable?

Not all types of cardboard are recyclable, and it’s important to be mindful of what type of cardboard can be recycled. Here are some considerations:

  • Cardboard with plastic coating or foreign objects may not be recyclable and should be separated for proper waste management.
  • Wet cardboard or cardboard contaminated with oil stains may not be suitable for recycling, as they can interfere with the recycling process or contaminate other materials.
  • Some cardboard packaging materials, like bubble wrap, may need to be recycled separately, as they have different recycling requirements.
  • It’s always important to check recycling guidelines in your area to ensure cardboard is suitable for recycling.

Issues with Certain Types of Cardboard

While cardboard recycling is generally beneficial, certain types of cardboard materials can present recycling challenges. Here are some issues to be aware of:

  • Corrugated cardboard, commonly used in packaging materials, may require additional processing due to its corrugated structure, which can make recycling more complex.
  • Cardboard packaging materials with plastic coatings or laminations can pose recycling challenges, as separating the plastic from the cardboard can be difficult.
  • Wet cardboard can be challenging to process, as excess water can affect the recycling facility’s equipment and compromise the quality of recycled materials.
  • Cardboard contaminated with oil stains, chemical residue, or other harmful substances may not be suitable for recycling, as they can contaminate other materials and affect the recycling process.
  • To ensure proper recycling, it’s important to separate different types of cardboard materials and follow local recycling guidelines.

Advantages of Cardboard Recycling

Cardboard recycling offers numerous environmental and economic benefits. Let’s explore some of these advantages:

Environmental Impact of Cardboard Recycling

  • It reduces greenhouse gases and helps mitigate climate change, as recycling cardboard material requires less energy compared to new cardboard production.
  • By recycling cardboard, we can prevent deforestation, protect natural habitats, and preserve biodiversity, as recycling reduces the need for new trees to be cut down.
  • The recycling process of cardboard consumes less water and energy compared to new cardboard production, leading to water conservation and reduced environmental pollution.
  • Recycling cardboard reduces environmental pollution caused by landfill waste, as less cardboard waste ends up in landfills, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and the release of harmful substances.
  • By recycling cardboard, we can conserve natural resources, such as wood, water, and oil, which are used in new cardboard production.

Economic Benefits of Cardboard Recycling

In addition to the environmental advantages, cardboard recycling also brings economic benefits. Here’s how it contributes to local and national economies:

  • The cardboard recycling industry generates revenue through the sale of recycled materials, providing economic opportunities.
  • Recycling cardboard reduces transit costs, as new cardboard products can be made closer to the collection points, minimizing transportation distances.
  • By recycling cardboard, businesses and waste management companies can save on waste management expenses, which can be significant, especially for large-scale cardboard waste producers.
  • The cardboard recycling industry creates job opportunities, supporting local economies and contributing to job growth.
  • Using recycled cardboard materials can be cost-effective for businesses, reducing the need to purchase new cardboard products, packaging materials, and office paper.

Recycled versus Virgin Fibres

When it comes to cardboard, there are two types of fibers used in its production: recycled fibers and virgin fibers. Let’s explore the differences between these fibers and their environmental impacts.

Comparing the Impacts of Both Types of Fibres

When comparing the impacts of both types of fibers, it is important to understand the differences between virgin and recycled fiber. Virgin fiber refers to paper made from freshly cut trees, while recycled fiber is obtained from materials that have already been used, such as cardboard. The environmental impacts also vary between the two. Using virgin fiber contributes to deforestation and loss of habitat, while using recycled fiber helps conserve trees and reduces waste.

The process of recycling cardboard involves several steps, including sorting, shredding, and pulping. After collection, cardboard is sorted based on its type and quality. It is then shredded into small pieces and mixed with water to create a paper pulp. This pulp is then used to make new products like packaging materials and cardboard boxes. By recycling cardboard, we can not only reduce waste but also save significant amounts of water and energy.

Recycled cardboard also offers many benefits. It helps conserve natural resources by reducing the need for new materials. Additionally, recycling cardboard creates a lot of job opportunities, especially in areas with well-established recycling programs like in the United States. Moreover, using recycled cardboard instead of virgin fiber can save a considerable amount of energy. For example, producing one ton of recycled cardboard saves about 3900 kwh of energy.

In conclusion, comparing the impacts of both types of fibers reveals the environmental benefits of using recycled cardboard. By understanding the differences, the recycling process, and the advantages of using recycled fiber, we can make more informed choices and contribute to a more sustainable future.

What Happens to Recycled Cardboard?

What Happens to Recycled Cardboard?

After collection, recycled cardboard waste goes through several processing stages to transform it into new products.

Common Uses for Recycled Cardboard

Recycled cardboard materials have a wide range of applications, including packaging products, paper products, and construction materials. Here are some common uses for recycled cardboard:

  • Packaging products: Recycled cardboard materials are commonly used in packaging products, such as boxes, cartons, paper bags, and bubble wrap.
  • Paper products: Cardboard pulp material from recycling is used to make paper towels, office paper, cardboard rolls, writing paper, and various other paper products.
  • Construction materials: Recycled cardboard fibers can be utilized in the production of construction materials, such as insulation material, floatation devices, and more.
  • By recycling cardboard, waste cardboard materials can be transformed into new products, reducing the demand for new materials and minimizing waste.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens to cardboard after it is collected for recycling?

Once cardboard waste is collected for recycling, it goes through a series of processing steps to transform it into new products.

  • How does the recycling process for cardboard differ from other materials?

The recycling process for cardboard differs from other materials in a few key ways. First, the collection method is specific to cardboard, usually done separately from other recyclables to ensure its purity. Once collected, the cardboard is sorted and separated by grade and type.

  • What are some common products made from recycled cardboard?

Some common products made from recycled cardboard include packaging products like boxes, cartons, paper bags, and bubble wrap. Additionally, recycled cardboard is used to make paper towels, office paper, cardboard rolls, writing paper, and various other paper products.

  • Are there any environmental benefits to recycling cardboard?

Yes, there are several environmental benefits to recycling cardboard. By recycling cardboard, we can reduce the demand for new materials, which helps conserve natural resources like trees. It also minimizes waste and promotes a circular economy by transforming discarded cardboard into new products.


Cardboard recycling is a vital process that helps reduce waste, conserve resources, and protect the environment. By understanding the importance of recycling and the process involved, we can make informed choices to support sustainability efforts.

Recycling starts with the collection and sorting of cardboard, followed by shredding and pulping to create a pulp mixture. This mixture uses filtering, de-inking, and finishing processes to remove impurities. Finally, the recycled pulp is used to create new cardboard products.

Not all cardboard is recyclable, and certain types may pose challenges during the recycling process. However, the advantages of recycling far outweigh any limitations. It has a positive environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving energy and water. Moreover, it offers economic benefits by creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Recycled cardboard finds various applications, including packaging materials, paperboard, and corrugated boxes. So, next time you come across cardboard, remember to recycle it and contribute to a greener future.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on cardboard recycling and how it can benefit the environment.

Sam Owens

Sam Owens is an eco-conscious writer and advocate for sustainable living. With a passion for innovation, Sam explores green product ideas that blend environmental responsibility with modern convenience. Drawing from a background in environmental science, Sam's insightful articles offer practical solutions for reducing carbon footprints and embracing a greener lifestyle. Through engaging storytelling and thorough research, Sam inspires readers to make informed choices that benefit both the planet and future generations. Join Sam on a journey toward a more sustainable tomorrow, one green product at a time.

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *