Cardboard is easily and effectively recycled which can prevent the release of methane from cardboard in landfill, saves trees and reduces water and energy use.
Cardboard - Cartons
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When cardboard breaks down in landfill it creates methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming capacity 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Recycling cardboard can save greenhouse gases from being created. Cardboard is one of the easiest and most environmentally effective materials to recycle, since the fibre in cardboard has already been processed. Manufacturing cardboard products from recycled material, rather than virgin fibre, saves trees, reduces water (up to 99% less) and energy use (up to 50% less) and minimises chemical wastes by up to 90%.
Approximately 2.3 million tonnes of paper and cardboard is recycled in Australia per year1. That's the equivalent "everyday" savings of over 10 million households’ energy requirements for a month2.
Environmental Benefits of Commercial Recycling for Cardboard - Cartons
"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of cardboard - cartons3 recycled:
3,713 km driven4
0.63 tonnes CO2e
6 houses' energy for a month5
10.76 GJ LHV (2,991 kWh)
162 bath tubs6
1.26 kL water
13 wheelie bins7
For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.
Before recycling, try to re-use cardboard boxes. Buy cardboard boxes that contain recycled content and/or can be returned to your supplier for re-use.
Many commercial operators recycle cardboard. The type of collection service needed will depend on the quantity to be recycled.
- For very large amounts, cardboard should be baled or compacted for professional collection
- Medium sized amounts can be collected in wool sacks or metal cages which can be provided by the collection service
- Small amounts can now be collected from many areas via a cardboard-only "wheelie" bin.
Check out our Case Study of a business that found cardboard recycling solutions for their office.
What Happens When It's Recycled?
Cardboard can be recycled along with paper and is remade into many different kinds of paper products as well as soundproofing material, insulation and even furniture. Every time paper is processed the individual fibres become weaker, limiting the number of times it can be recycled - usually up to eight times.
Cardboard intended for recycling should be kept clean of food scraps, polystyrene and plastic otherwise it can contaminate the process of recycling. Cardboard at the end of its lifespan or that has been contaminated with food scraps can be composted.
More Info & Sources
1. Hyder Consulting (2009) Waste and Recycling in Australia: Amended report. Hyder Consulting, Melbourne, p. 8
2. Calculation using average of data for all paper and cardboard types (for kerbside and all commercial recycling) as contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. Data for cardboard - cartons (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
4. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
5. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
6. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
7. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)