Business, Finances

The Environmental Impact of Recyclable Cardboard – Insights From a Corrugated Recycling Expert

Cardboard is a typical waste stream for businesses like grocery chains, warehouses, and distribution centers. Without streamlined collection and disposal, cardboard piles can quickly monopolize warehouse space, disrupting business operations and limiting storage efficiency. B

ut fortunately, recycling cardboard makes a big difference. Every ton of recycled cardboard saves 17 trees, cuts carbon dioxide emissions, and reduces sulfur emissions.

Saves Energy

Cardboard is recyclable, and recycling it helps save energy. It requires around 90% less water and 50% less electricity to make cardboard from recycled materials than virgin materials like plastic. The decomposition of cardboard in a landfill releases Methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Nonetheless, consumers can drastically lower the quantity of Methane released into the environment by recycling cardboard for new packaging instead of disposing of it in landfills. In addition, when cardboard is recycled, it is also reusable, which further conserves natural resources. The key to successful cardboard recycling is ensuring it is clean and uncontaminated.

For example, it cannot be recycled without paint or other chemicals. This is why businesses need to separate their cardboard waste and take steps to remove any contaminants before bringing it to their recycling center. For example, removing styrofoam, oils, excessive amounts of tape, and plastic delivery labels (often used with pizza boxes) from cardboard can help ensure it will be appropriately recycled.

Saves Water

Cardboard and paper waste is a significant portion of the trash at many manufacturing, distribution, and retail establishments. If this material isn’t recycled, it ends up in landfills or burned in incinerators, which create harmful greenhouse gases.

Recyclable cardboard reduces the amount of Methane produced, saves trees, decreases water and energy use, and minimizes chemical wastes. When cardboard is recycled, it is repurposed into new paper products. These products are a great alternative to plastics, wood, and metals. Cardboard is also famous for arts and crafts projects like making toys, collages, or paper mache.

Additionally, it can be cut into small pieces and used as coffee or beverage coasters. Recycling your cardboard keeps your business compliant with local laws, helps you save on waste pickup costs, and is environmentally friendly.

For businesses that regularly produce large amounts of clean OCC, purchasing a baler to make it easier to store and transport can be cost-effective. It will also help to avoid the hassle of lugging heavy, bulky trash to the recycling center.

Saves Forests

Cardboard recycling is a great way to help reduce solid waste and conserve natural resources. One ton of recycled cardboard saves nine cubic yards of landfill space. However, it is essential to recycle only clean and dry cardboard waste. Wet cardboard and paper can jam automated sorting machines, leading to costly equipment downtime and maintenance costs for the recycling plant.

It can also become moldy and contaminate the rest of the recyclable waste. When discarded cardboard is recycled, it is repurposed into new packaging and other paper products instead of being dumped in landfills or burned. Landfills release Methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming while burning the same amount of cardboard releases approximately 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide.

In addition, when cardboard is recycled instead of thrown away, it reduces the need to cut down more trees. Climate change is mainly caused by deforestation, with each ton of recycled cardboard paper averting the need to cut down 17 trees. 

Saves Landfill Space

Methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming, is released less frequently when cardboard is kept out of landfills. It also keeps the cardboard from being broken down, which can create toxic sludge that pollutes water and air.

Recycling one ton of cardboard is estimated to save nine cubic yards of landfill space. Recycled cardboard can be turned into new boxes, shipping containers, and other paper products that conserve natural resources and reduce the need for virgin materials. This helps to save energy and protect our precious ecosystems.

The process of making cardboard from virgin wood requires massive amounts of water. Recycling cardboard instead makes saving 7,000 gallons of water for every ton of recycled cardboard possible.

Stripping and separating cardboard for recycling is simple, but it’s important to remember that certain items can’t be recycled. Sticky food stains and grease, labels, plastic windows on envelopes, and tape to hold hardcover books together are not recyclable.

Saves Methane

If cardboard is sent to landfill, it will break down over time and produce Methane, a greenhouse gas. This has a substantial detrimental impact on the earth’s climate, and by recycling cardboard, we can reduce the amount of Methane being produced. Reusing and repurposing materials like cardboard reduces the need to harvest virgin materials, which require more energy.

Manufacturing one ton of cardboard from recycled materials saves 390 kWh of electricity and 1.1 barrels of oil. It also cuts sulfur emissions by as much as 64% compared to creating it from virgin materials. Cardboard and paper recycling is relatively easy if the cardboard and paper are sorted correctly.

Removing all foreign material, such as plastic windows on envelopes, tape, sticky tape, or plastic inserts, and cleaning any food waste or grease from the cardboard before placing it into a recycling bin. Any contaminants can significantly decrease a recycler’s ability to reuse or recycle the cardboard, leading to it being sent to the trash.