Remember playing in that big cardboard box as a kid? Did it ever cross your mind how important cardboard is? I bet not. The average American uses approximately 650 pounds of paper and cardboard every year. More than 90 percent of consumer products in the United States are shipped in cardboard, making it one of the most important items to recycle! Not to mention, recycled cardboard only takes 75 percent of the energy needed to make new cardboard and lessens the emission of sulfur dioxide that is produced when making pulp from wood trees. Knowing the facts about cardboard, where it comes from, and how its made will help you better appreciate this material and to remind you to always ThinkBeforeYouThrow.
How Does a Tree Become a…Board?
Cardboard originates as a Pine tree. Once the trees are chopped down, they are transported to a processing plant where they are turned into a pulp. The pulp is pressed into thin layers of kraft paper and from there it is ether turned into corrugated cardboard or paperboard. Corrugated cardboard is used for shipping, or sturdy boxes, while paperboard is used more for cereal boxes, gift boxes, beverage containers and more. All of these things are recyclable and belong in your recycling bin.
The Cardboard Recycling Process
After being separated out from other materials at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), cardboard is baled and sent to a plant for processing. The material is soaked in water and agitated until it returns to its original form as wood pulp. By recovering the wood pulp, there is no need to chop down more trees. The pulp is then strained to remove any objects or contaminants that were introduced, such as staples or small pieces of tape. The pulp is dried and pressed into sheets for further processing. Be careful when recycling your cardboard that no oil or water has contaiminated it making it virtually unusable or non-recyclable. A great example of this is the ever-debated-upon, pizza box. Since pizza boxes are made out of cardboard they are in fact recyclable. However, you can’t forget about that greasy, delicious treat that goes inside the box. If the company you have ordered pizza from has placed a thin waxy sheet at the bottom of your box, odds are that your pizza box is 100% recyclable. Proceed to tossing this into your collection container. If there is no waxy sheet, check to see if any grease has soaked in to the bottom of the box. Sometimes, it is best to simply remove the top of the box, and dispose of the bottom of the box in a waste receptacle, should there be too much grease.
It is all too often that I drive through my neighborhood on trash pick-up day and I see stacks of cardboard boxes waiting to be picked up with the trash. Understandably, cardboard boxes take up a lot of space and customers want to quickly dispose of them, making their homes tidy and neat. Unfortunately, a quick disposal means a lifetime wasted in a landfill. This week, try breaking down larger boxes for better storage, and wait for your recycling day for disposal. Think about the material and energy you are wasting before you choose to throw cardboard in with your trash.