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Proper Steps for How to Recycle Cardboard Boxes

According to current projections, by 2050, waste production will double the rate of population growth. Your daily contribution to this issue is almost five pounds. That results in the US producing over 260 million tons of trash annually. 

If ignored, the world’s trash generation will have detrimental consequences on the environment. You can help by recycling items that you would normally throw in the trash.

This article will help you do your part with specific steps on how to recycle cardboard boxes and other shipping supplies.

Cardboard: The Easy Choice

Cardboard is already made of recyclable materials. Last year, almost 50 million tons of paper were collected and recycled. Half of it went back towards manufacturing new cardboard boxes.

The types of cardboard approved for recycling may vary. This depends on where you go to recycle them. But generally, the more common cardboard materials will meet recycling criteria.

Typically cardboard falls under two categories: paperboard and corrugated.


Paperboard or chipboard is grayish and usually consists of a single layer. It’s used to make items such as shoe boxes and cereal boxes.

Although thin, it’s sturdier than paper. But because it’s easy to tear, it is also easier to break down for recycling.

Corrugated Cardboard

Corrugated cardboard is brown and is commonly used for shipping boxes. It’s thicker than paperboard and consists of three layers. Two are flat outer liners, between which is an inner layer of wavy cardboard.

When placed together, it becomes thick and durable. It’s ideal for packing and shipping materials and can safely hold heavier items.

It’s incredibly functional and better for the environment.

Non-Recyclable Cardboard

Before recycling either type, you’ll need to ensure they’re not soiled. 

Boxes with spills from chemical products fall into this category. In addition, wet cardboard is also non-recyclable.

Soiled cardboard can interfere with the recycling process. While the reprocessing of wet cardboard is difficult. Once it dries, the cardboard’s fibers become warped. 

Added to the list of non-recyclable boxes would be ones with plastic or wax coating. The plastic does not separate easily during the recycling process.

An example of a soiled cardboard box that cannot be recycled

How to Recycle Cardboard Boxes

One way to recycle is simply to reuse the cardboard boxes you may have. Most of the time you’ll usually use them to pack, ship, or store stuff. Once you unpack the items, you may not have the space to store the boxes even if you break them down.

You may also not want the unnecessary clutter. In this case, you might consider giving them away to someone. People are always looking for boxes when moving.

If this is also not an option, call a company that recycles in your area. They’ll be able to tell you about the process for cardboard box disposal.

You’ll need to take some steps to get the boxes ready though.

Remove All Packing Materials

When you receive a shipment, most of the time there’s additional packaging inside to protect the item. This could include bubble wrap, styrofoam, packing peanuts, or even plastic or paper.

You may want to leave them in the box to recycle them too. But regardless of the protective material used, you’ll need to remove it. 

These items may also be recyclable. But chances are this won’t occur at the same location that recycles cardboard. Once removed you can then go to the next step of the recycling process. 

Break Down the Box

This step is only possible after removing all packing materials. You can use scissors, a box cutter, or a knife to remove any tape. Remember, this type of material is not part of the recycling process.

If affixed with glue, a little force usually separates the box folds from each other. This usually makes it easier to flatten the boxes manually.

Some boxes may also have staples holding them together. More than likely, you’ll need to remove these as well. This step may also be the best time to remove any soiled pieces of cardboard.

Flatten Into a Pile

Once you flatten each box, place them neatly in a stacked pile. You’ll then need to secure them. The best way to secure boxes is by tying them together with twine, or you can place them in a recycling bin. The last thing you’ll want is the cardboard to blow away because they weren’t adequately secured. 

Get Them to the Recycling Location

Depending on the company you use, you may have several ways to get your cardboard boxes to them. Some of the most common examples are curbside pick-up or recycling bins. If that’s not an option, simply take your stack to the company yourself.

Photo of how to recycle cardboard boxes: flatten them into a pile

Recycling for a Better Future

The United States produces quite a lot of waste. Despite this, there is still hope that recycling can help reduce it. But this can only occur if everyone plays their part.

Recycling can seem complicated and overwhelming. But starting with one item is a great way to start doing your part.

Now you know how to recycle cardboard boxes. The process is really straightforward. It’s also just as easy to recycle cardboard boxes as it is to dispose of them.

Goin’ Postal isn’t a moving service company, but we can provide you with all the cardboard boxes and packing supplies you need. We’ll even recycle them for you too! 

Contact one of our stores near you to find out more.