A step-by-step guide to recycling cardboard correctly

Recycling is a routine activity that goes a long way towards becoming a more environmentally conscious society, especially when it comes to materials like cardboard, which we encounter frequently in various forms of packaging.

Cardboard already has a very high recycling rate (more than 80%) and the paper industry needs the old boxes to make new ones – a process that can be done so quickly that paper fibres can be back on shelf in the retailer in just two weeks. But we need your help to make it happen!  

However, some people may not be entirely clued-up on best practice when it comes to recycling cardboard. By following a few simple steps, every household can become a pro at recycling one of the most sustainable materials, and therefore making a positive environmental impact.

1. Identify recyclable cardboard

First, it’s important to understand the types of cardboard in your home. 

There are primarily two types: corrugated cardboard, typically used for shipping packages due to its thicker, more durable construction; and cartonboard, like that used for cereal boxes, pharmaceutical and other light packaging. 

While most local recycling programmes accept both types, it’s always worth checking your local council’s recycling guidelines to ensure compliance and avoid contamination.

2. Consider reuse opportunities

Before you decide to recycle, consider the ways in which your cardboard can be reused. 

Cardboard boxes are excellent for storage, moving, or even creative reuses like repurposing them as organisers for drawers or garages. Encouraging reuse can extend the lifecycle of the materials and reduce the need for new products, which can benefit the environment.

3. Inspect cardboard for recycling

So you’ve identified the cardboard and checked whether it can be reused – now comes the tricky part!

All contents and non-paper packing materials need to be removed from the cardboard, as it must be empty, clean, and dry to qualify for recycling. This is particularly important because the presence of contaminants – such as food, grease, or chemicals – can result in the cardboard being rejected. 

4. Break down cardboard boxes

The next step is likely to engage small children – it’s time to flatten some cardboard boxes! This simple action saves significant space in recycling bins and makes for easier transport and processing at recycling facilities. 

But in between all the stomping and shredding, it’s also crucial to remove any tape, labels, staples, or other adhesives still present on the cardboard, as these can hinder the recycling process. Most of these materials can be removed by hand, though some might require a bit more care end effort to peel away cleanly.

5. Keep cardboard dry

Proper storage of cardboard is crucial to prevent it from becoming damp or mouldy, which could also result in the material not being recycled. 

Always store cardboard in a dry location and stack it neatly to prevent potential hazards. Keeping cardboard dry and clean until it can be recycled is an essential step in the recycling process, and often one that’s overlooked.

6. Involve the family

Recycling should be a fundamental part of children’s education, teaching them the importance of environmental responsibility from a young age. 

Involve your family in the recycling process by assigning roles, such as breaking down boxes or ensuring that cardboard is dry and clean before recycling. Not only do these routines prove to be educational, but they also instil a sense of collective purpose.

By following these steps, every household can improve their recycling habits and make a tangible difference. We encourage you to adopt these practices, educate family members, and share recycling tips and best practice with your community. 

Ultimately, effective recycling starts at home – and your efforts set an example for others to follow!