How Much Cardboard Waste is Produced Each Year in the UK?

3rd Mar 2022

Reducing the amount of cardboard and paper packaging waste produced in the UK has become a key concern in the fight against climate change.

More than 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are used every year in the UK and this is expected to rise, largely due to internet purchases. We need to act now, before it's too late.

Many businesses and retailers have made moves to adopt more eco-friendly packaging to address this issue and consumers are increasingly looking for lower-impact choices.

However, this isn’t enough.

We also need to recycle more of our cardboard, paper and glass if we want to reduce our carbon emissions and energy consumption, save landfills from overload, preserve the earth’s natural resources and fight against climate change.

Whilst the UK’s overall recycling rate remains around 45%, the packaging waste recycled is more than 67%. This suggests that up to 1/3 of all paper and card is still not fully recycled. In fact, around 7 million tonnes of cardboard end up in landfill every year.

Considering how easy it is to recycle cardboard and paper at work and at home, these figures seem incredibly low.

We can easily fix this by simply separating our paper and card from our general waste and ensure that it doesn’t get contaminated with water, oil or food waste. Use of a cardboard baler minimises disruption, and helps your recycling team to do the rest.

What are the benefits of cardboard recycling?

Cardboard is one of the most commonly recycled materials in the UK. Around 2 million tonnes of cardboard is recycled in the UK alone. Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy if you recycle your cardboard waste:

1. You ease the pressure on landfill sites

By recycling your cardboard, you reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill sites across the country. This reduces the amount of pollution that is created, ensuring that the local ecosystem doesn’t fall prey to harmful toxins.

2. You’ll conserve forests

By recycling one tonne of cardboard, an estimated 17 trees will be saved. We need trees to produce our oxygen, maintain air quality, preserve the soil, absorb carbon dioxide and help protect the global climate.

3. You’ll save energy

When you recycle your cardboard waste instead of using raw materials, a significant amount of energy and resources are saved. This can be as much as 4000kW of electricity saved from just one tonne of cardboard!

4. You’ll reduce your greenhouse gas emissions

Producing new cardboard from raw materials requires a huge amount of energy and resources. This process produces greenhouse gases which contributes to climate change. However, by recycling we reduce these emissions and lessen our impact on the planet.

5. You’ll save water

Did you know that cardboard uses a lot of water when it’s first created? Recycled cardboard requires much less water. In fact, around 7000 tonnes of water is saved per tonne of cardboard that is recycled.

Is cardboard easy to recycle?

Cardboard is one of the easiest materials to recycle, provided that it is clean and dry.

First, it’s collected, then baled and sent to a recycling plant. There, the cardboard is placed into a cardboard shredder, this turns it into smaller pieces and is then broken down into fibres using water or chemicals. These fibres can be dried and sent to make new cardboard. Simple!

However, there are a few basic rules that you need to know when recycling your cardboard waste:

  • Empty the box and remove any extra packaging from inside
  • Remove any tape or plastic delivery labels
  • Make sure it is clean, dry and doesn't have any food residue
  • Flatten your cardboard before putting it into the recycling bin


Can all cardboard be recycled?

Good news!  All types of cardboard can be recycled, provided that they are clean, dry and free from other plastic materials such as tape.

This includes corrugated cardboard, the thicker type that is used for shipping, or the thinner paperboard or chipboard that is used for smaller items.

Final words

Recycling your cardboard and paper waste requires little effort and will have a positive impact on the environment. You’ll save energy, save water, protect forests, reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and help fight climate change.

Why not ask us about one of our QCR balers? We regularly install cardboard balers for customers which means no flat-packing, fewer movements of waste, fewer bins or skips, increased recycling levels and reduced overall costs.

If you would like to see how we can save you time and money on your waste – give QCR a call and we can arrange a free site survey.



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