Recycled Cardboard Products
Lead Image Source: Jared/Flickr

When you were young, a cardboard box presented a world of creative possibilities. Long after the contents were removed, they served as magic castles, automobile bodies, or bountiful treasure chests. Simply by virtue of imagination, you were helping to reduce paper waste by re-using and re-purposing box packaging. And while a simple  brown box may not provide the same level of entertainment it once did, there are still plenty of good reasons to care about what you do with your cardboard.

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Paper waste accounts for 40% of all waste in the US, and paper production contributes significantly to deforestation, as well as air, water and land pollution. Paper and cardboard products that end up in landfills release methane gas when they start to decompose, further contributing to environmental pollution. Fortunately, somewhere between 60 and 85% of all paper products- including cardboard- are currently being recycled. Recycling cardboard is a simple and effective way to reduce the amount that ends up in landfills, and reduce the amount of trees used in paper manufacturing. There is some debate as to whether or not recycled cardboard is a truly “eco-friendly” material, though. The recycling and manufacturing processes still consume high amounts of both energy and water, especially when compared to other plant-fiber resources. However, recycled cardboard creates 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than “virgin” paper pulp, thus making it significantly more sustainable. It can be recycled up to 5 times, after which point it can still be used as compost or animal bedding. Furthermore, most cardboard does not undergo any bleaching process, thereby reducing the environmental damage caused by toxic chemical runoff at paper mills.

The best way to recycle cardboard is to re-use or re-purpose it. Boxes are great for storage, packing groceries, or arts and crafts activities (as previously mentioned!) Plain cardboard- the kind without inks or plastics- can be soaked in water and added to compost along with food and garden scraps. If you still have cardboard left over after all this re-purposing, you can pack it up and send it off to be recycled into amazing products like the ones below!

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