When was the last time you emptied a cardboard container? This morning when you poured out the last of the cornflakes? At the post office when you opened the package cradling that long-awaited gadget you ordered on-line? Five minutes ago when you dumped the box of paper clips into your magnetic desktop paperclip holder? Did you know that all of those containers—and most other cardboard packages—can be recycled with very little effort?
Cardboard has been used to protect fragile materials for almost two centuries, first in the form of paperboard (also called box board or pressboard) and about 30 years later as corrugated cardboard. It is now the most popular shipping material in the United States, used for 90% of all products sold in this country, according to Earth 911.
Paperboard is usually gray in color and is the type of cardboard used to make boxes for packaging food such as cereal, crackers and cookies, as well as such dry goods as shoes, tissues and laundry detergent. It is made using a single layer of paper pulp. Corrugated cardboard is generally thicker and sturdier than paperboard because it is constructed of two thin outer layers with a crimped layer pasted in between. Corrugated cardboard comes in many dimensions depending on the strength and rigidity desired.
Both types of cardboard are recyclable and can be made from recycled materials. Paperboard has been made from 100% recycled materials since the late 19th century. This is good news for the environment and human health. Recycling cardboard uses about 75% less energy and emits less sulfur dioxide than making it from virgin material. It also saves landfill space--about nine cubic yards for every ton recycled—and reduces oil consumption—approximately 46 gallons per ton.
Perhaps because corrugated cardboard is one of the most common commodities accepted by recycling centers, is so easy to recycle, has been recycled for so many years, and is often recycled by those who use the most of it--supermarkets, department stores and other businesses--, it has one of the highest recycle rates in the U.S.-- a whopping 85% in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Compare that to the rate for #2 HDPE plastic (the type milk jugs are made of) of just 27.5% that same year.
Recycling cardboard in Mariposa County is as simple as dropping it in the concrete bin at the County Landfill & Recycling Center in Mariposa or in the recycling bin at any of the County’s four transfer stations—Don Pedro, Coulterville, Hornitos and Fish Camp. (For exact locations and hours of operation go to Home Page. Cardboard should be dry and free of food waste and oil stains. (That includes both food and motor oil--no dirty pizza boxes, coffee cups or restaurant take-out containers.) Please break down large corrugated boxes so that they take up less space in the bin. If you take your cardboard to the recycling center, it must be separated from your other recyclables. Cardboard brought to any of the transfer stations does not have to be separated.
The following is a partial list of cardboard materials accepted for recycling: shoe boxes and other cardboard product packaging (plastic removed); gift boxes; mailing tubes and cartons; cereal/cracker/cookie and other clean cardboard food containers; cardboard egg cartons; detergent boxes; tissue boxes; toilet tissue, waxed paper and aluminum foil tubes; hanging file folders (metal removed) and cardboard backing from legal and note pads (wire binding removed). Hardbound books should be placed in the mixed paper recycling bin, even though the covers are cardboard.
Although “gable top” refrigerator cartons such as those used for milk, juice, cream and egg substitute and shelf-stable cartons like those used to package soups, juice, wine and soy milk are made primarily of paper, they also contain a layer of plastic and, in the case of shelf-stable cartons, a thin layer of aluminum. For that reason, they cannot be recycled with the cardboard but must be disposed of as household trash.
Please remember that throwing Styrofoam, bubble wrap, plastic wrap, bags of trash, and other types of garbage into the cardboard recycling bin contaminates the load, which can then be rejected by the recycler. If it is rejected, the entire load, cardboard and all, could end up in the landfill.