A Beginners Guide to Commercial Cardboard Waste Recycling

14th Jul 2023

In 2021, 3,802 out of 5,389 thousand tonnes of cardboard and paper waste was recycled in the UK. A quick calculation reveals a recycling rate of just over 70%, making these materials some of the most recycled in the UK.

As tempting as it is to pat ourselves on the back, we should always be striving to improve our waste management practices, as we continue our journey towards a more sustainable planet.

Cardboard is often found as a waste product of commercial activities. This versatile material is used in everything from storing and shipping goods to food packaging and takeaway containers. While recycling cardboard is relatively straightforward, it’s not without its challenges – storage, costs, and potential contaminants can all influence your approach towards disposal.

But don’t despair, our informative guide will give you the lowdown on commercial cardboard waste recycling. We’ll cover everything from how you can responsibly dispose of your excess cardboard to how the purchase or rental of a cardboard baler or shredder can streamline your process.

What Is Cardboard Waste?

Cardboard is commonly used in packaging and comes in two main forms:

  • Corrugated Paperboard – A strong, thick type of cardboard made of several layers of paper used predominantly in packaging goods for transportation or food products.
  • Paperboard – A much thinner form of cardboard that you typically see in toy packaging or food products like cereal or ready-meals.

When your cardboard has fulfilled its purpose, it becomes cardboard waste and you’ll need to either dispose of it or find a new use for it.

How Can I Dispose of Commercial Cardboard Waste?

Whether in the domestic or commercial sector, there are typically three routes for managing unwanted cardboard waste:

  • Recycle – Cardboard balers may be used to compact waste cardboard into neat bales for more manageable storage. The bundles are collected by a Recycler and delivered to a recycling centre for processing, where they’re sorted, cleaned, and pulped. Wood chips are added to create new products.
  • Reuse – Clean waste cardboard can be repurposed into packing materials. By purchasing or hiring a heavy-duty cardboard shredder, a business can turn their cardboard boxes into packaging materials for use in their post room or order packing departments. This solution is popular with online retailers as it is often cheaper to produce your own packaging than purchasing it from a supplier (even when taking into account the cost of hiring the shredding machine).
  • Rubbish – Cardboard that cannot be recycled or reused because it’s too soiled or otherwise contaminated will be destined for landfill, where it releases harmful methane gases as it decomposes. This is often the most costly disposal method for a commercial business however, the costs can be minimised if it is compacted first by a bin compactor. This is because many waste disposal companies charge for collections based on the number of bins to be emptied.

How Much Is Cardboard Worth In The UK?

Globally, we’re increasingly focused on adopting processes that contribute to the circular economy, a model of production that encourages reusing, remaking, and recycling materials for as long as possible. Some schools of thought highlight the importance of the circular economy in efforts towards eco-friendly business practices.

Companies that produce substantial volumes of cardboard by-products which they have baled on their premises could generate a new revenue stream through the sale of the bales to a Recycler.

Clean cardboard can be extremely valuable in the UK, fetching prices between £65-£120 per tonne in 2022. Recycling companies often specify that cardboard should be baled for collection and the exact value of your cardboard varies according to quality, location, and the time of year.

Businesses can get a foothold in cardboard recycling with a cardboard baler rental, saving them the upfront investment cost of buying a baler outright. 

What Types Of Cardboard Waste Can’t Be Recycled?

Cardboard is the third most widely recycled material in the UK, behind metal and glass. Almost any kind of clean, dry cardboard can be recycled, but there are a few exceptions to keep in mind.

Painted, Wet or Soiled Cardboard

Though it might be tempting to lump all your cardboard together for collection, it can lead to downstream problems. Stained cardboard, whether by food, grease or children’s paints, cannot be recycled. Avoid having an entire batch of cardboard diverted back to traditional disposal methods by separating soiled items, like pizza or takeaway boxes.

Only dry bales of waste materials can be collected by Recyclers therefore if a business does want to utilise a waste baler as part of its waste management procedures, it’s important to consider where the bales will be stored.

Waxed or Think Cardboard

Cardboard or paper lined in polyethene to add water-resistant properties is known as waxed card or paper. Unfortunately, this layer of plastic is considered a contaminant. Similarly, any paper-based materials covered with glitter, fabrics or metallic sequins cannot be recycled.

How Can a QCR Cardboard Baler Make My Business More Sustainable?

At QCR, we believe it is more sustainable to bale or shred your cardboard waste on your premises vs. disposing of it in traditional bins. Why? Because unbaled cardboard waste is bulky and fills bins quickly. More bins means more frequent collections which results more lorries on the road (and a bigger disposal costs for your business).

QCR has a wide range of cardboard balers for sale or rental. Plus, if you are based in mainland UK, we can offer you a free trial to ensure you select the most appropriate recycling baler for your business.

Our high-quality cardboard shredders can save your business money on packing materials if you regularly ship products to your customers. By making your own packing materials, you are reducing the amount of new packaging materials you need to purchase.

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