How Many Times Can Cardboard Be Recycled?

29th Jul 2022

In our efforts to save our planet, we must all look to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. This mantra reminds both businesses and individuals of their priorities when it comes to the use and disposal of materials and products.

Firstly, ‘reduce’. This means that if you can, you should try to reduce the amount of ‘things’ that you are buying or packaging that you use, and, consequently, the amount of waste that you are producing. This could mean, for example, buying refills instead of food in plastic packaging, or a single larger bottle of concentrated washing liquid instead of several smaller bottles of pre-diluted liquid. When it comes to trying to look after the planet, reducing the amount of waste.

Secondly, ‘reuse’. This means that instead of throwing something away, you should try to reuse it. For example, if you have empty jam jars, you could use these to store some food that you have made, or if you have had to get a plastic bag from the supermarket, you use it for the next few times that you go. After reducing your waste, reusing it is the next best option.

Third and finally is ‘recycle’, and this is what this article will discuss. The term recycle refers to the taking of waste material such as cardboard or glass and recycling it back to enable it to be used again. It is a good way to reduce the amount of waste that you send to landfill but is by no means perfect.

Recycling cardboard

Cardboard is the world’s favourite material for packaging. And in a world where online buying and delivery is the norm, this means that we produce enormous amounts of cardboard waste every day in our personal lives as well as in business. Cardboard boxes can easily be reused for storage or to carry things in, and thankfully, cardboard can also be recycled – to an extent.

When it comes to recycling, there is a limit on the number of times that cardboard can be recycled. It can usually be recycled between about five and seven times, depending on the quality of the cardboard. This means that the quality of the recycled cardboard can deteriorate over time, the fibres get shorter, and its quality decreases.

The cardboard recycling process

When cardboard is kept to be recycled, it is important that it is stored safely and in a dry place. To make things easier, many businesses choose to get a cardboard baler to compact their waste, and store it neatly. With your cardboard in bales, it can be easily stacked, moved, and collected by a recycling company. Cardboard balers range from small to large, and are chosen to suit your business’s specific needs.

Once the cardboard has been collected by the recycling company, it is sorted into different types – there is a difference, for example, between corrugated cardboard and single board cardboard (such as that used in cereal boxes, for example). It is important to remember that not all cardboard can be recycled – cardboard that is dirty with food or grease, for example (such as pizza boxes or other food packaging) is not suitable for recycling.

Once the cardboard is separated, it is then put through a shredding machine.

Next, in a process known as ‘pulping’, the cardboard is added to large tanks where it is mixed with water. This creates a pulp that can then be used to create the new recycled cardboard. During this process, the pulp is filtered to extract any foreign bodies such as tape and staples. These filters use methods such as centrifugal separation systems and magnets.

To  make new cardboard, more water is added to the pulp, as well as any chemicals that are required to make it water resistant, for example.

The pulp is then dried and rolled into the new paper which can then be layered to enable it to become cardboard.

Although there are certainly better ways to deal with waste cardboard – such as reusing it, for example, this is not always possible. Recycling the waste cardboard is the next best solution. And by recycling as much cardboard as possible, it is also possible to reduce the number of trees that are cut down.

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