Whenever we talk about sustainability, there’s no doubt that packaging is one of the first areas that come to mind that needs to be overhauled to reduce the impact on the environment. Luckily, there are many sustainable packaging and shipping alternatives available now so you can make choices for your business that align both with your environmental goals and your need to protect your products in the mail. Once the packaging has served its purpose, however, it must be recycled so that the raw materials can be reworked into something new.
But have you ever wondered how this process happens? Or what you need to do to ensure those materials can be recycled easily? We’ve done all the hard work for you, so keep reading to find out the best ways to ensure these raw materials get broken down and reshaped.
Why Should We Recycle Cardboard?
E-commerce is booming as more and more Australians continue to shop online and because of this we are seeing a rise in demand for recyclable packaging. They all must be broken down in the right way to ensure there is enough carboard in the supply chain to meet the demand.
Recycling cardboard maximises our resource use while also using 25% less energy than creating new cardboard, and each tonne of cardboard that is recycled can save up to 170L of oil. If your organisation or you as an individual can collect and separate cardboard from regular waste, you can make this process much easier for the collection agencies and processing plants. Recycling is good for the environment because it helps prevent further deterioration by reducing pollution and conserving valuable resources, with the added benefit of creating jobs!
Two types of cardboard that can be recycled: corrugated cardboard and paperboard?
It can be easily identified by the wavy inner layer of cardboard and is commonly used as mailer boxes and packaging materials. This kind can vary greatly in thickness and strength.
A single layer of grey cardboard used to make things like cereal boxes, shoe boxes, and other packages.
How to Recycle
Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to recycle:
- Check: Before preparing a box or other cardboard material for recycling, make sure it is recyclable! Most cardboard mailer can be recycled, but it must be free of grease, food materials, and plastic or film windows.
- Separate: Make sure that every waste station throughout your facility has an additional recycling bin to collect and separate your cardboard. In many cases, most of an organisation’s cardboard may come from shipping and receiving boxes and other large packaging. It makes sense to ensure that these areas have larger bins to collect these bigger pieces. It’s important to note that cardboard and plastics must be recycled separately, so ensure any recycling waste goes into the correct bin.
- Keep Recycling and Waste Bins Close: By keeping recycling bins close to the regular waste bin you can encourage yourself or your staff to make more sustainable choices both in the lunchroom and on a business level. For example, during facility cleaning bins can become separated and people don’t have the choice of where to throw away their cardboard, so they toss it into the closest bin regardless of the type of rubbish. This can cause contamination in your recycling and waste streams which is detrimental to your sustainability goals as contaminated recycling and cardboard will often end up being sent to landfill rather than be sorted.
- Clear & Consistent Recycling Labels: Make it easy for you and your staff to dispose of their waste and recycling properly by ensuring each bin is clearly labelled with the kind of waste is acceptable. Clear graphics can make a huge difference when separating recycling waste, food waste, and plastic waste and can help avoid the contamination of recycling. Graphics can be customized with images of actual items that are common in your facility and can also include sustainability messages and be swapped out with new graphics to adapt to changing needs.
- Keep It Dry: Fun fact! Cardboard (and paper) needs to be dry to be processed and recycled correctly. When recycling cardboard, make sure the lid of your outside recycling bin closes fully so that your recyclables aren’t contaminated by external elements, like rain. Once the cardboard is wet can be extremely difficult to recycle and some collectors will not accept cardboard that is wet or damaged. So be sure to make sure your paper and cardboard recycling is kept dry!
- Break It Down: It’s always best practice to break down and flatten any cardboard. Whole carboard boxes and packaging can take up a lot of space and quickly fill up your bin. It’s good to put up signage to remind you and your employees to break it down so you can fit more recycling in each bin, which will also reduce the amount of times the bin will need to be emptied.
How to Reuse or Recycle at Home or in the Business
Recycling doesn’t always need to occur in the recycling plant! Here are some ideas for how to reuse cardboard at home or in your business:
- Reuse for Packaging or Storage: Cardboard is a sturdy material and can be reused many times before needing to be sent to the plant to be recycled. Boxes can be cut down to size and reused to ship new items out from your business or broken down to be used as void fill in other packages. If the boxes are in good condition, they can be used for storage as well!
- Composting: Cardboard boxes can be added to your home compost pile as long as it hasn’t been contaminated with plastic, foil, or chemicals such as cleaning supplies. Ensure all plastic tapes and stickers have been removed before wetting down your cardboard to compost.
- Give Them Away: Are you or a friend or family member preparing to move or need to put some clutter into storage? Instead of recycling cardboard boxes, you can simply reuse them. If kept in good condition, used cardboard boxes can be refurbished into storage or moving boxes. Chances are even if you don’t need these boxes, you know someone who does! Ask employees, friends, family, or local community centres to see if they could benefit from these boxes.
- Other Creative Uses: Other uses for broken down cardboard can include creating draw dividers for easier storage, layed flat on the ground to protect it from painting or craft activities, or can be used for arts and crafts!
All in all, there’s no need to waste cardboard when you can simply recycle or reuse it instead. Whether you planning to leave those boxes curbside or rely on them for your next big move, think twice before you discard these highly recyclable materials.
If you’re in need of sturdy cardboard boxes, we at NEON eCommerce Packaging can help you out! Shop our range of recyclable packaging materials or contact us so we can help you find the perfect eco-friendly packaging for your company!