Are Cardboard Boxes Really Biodegradable? | Brandable Box

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Are Cardboard Boxes Really Biodegradable?

Cardboard boxes are great containers for products of all shapes and sizes. They are easy to use and serve many purposes from moving and storage to shipping and beyond. We all use them, and chances are you have a cardboard box sitting in your office or closet right now. 

While we’re very familiar with these helpful containers, how much do we know about them? As a business aimed at going green, it’s even more important to examine the sustainability of your shipping supplies. In a previous post, we explored the difference between biodegradable packaging vs. 100% recycled, but are cardboard shipping boxes really biodegradable? And what goes into a recycled box? Let’s find out!

Making the Old New Again

Before we dive in too deep, we need to understand how recycled shipping boxes are made. In a previous post, we outlined the lifecycle of a recycled custom shipping box. Here’s a quick summary.

The process of recycling begins by categorically sorting used cardboard. Many different types exist, so it’s important to keep them all separated. Some forms of cardboard, like wax-coated cartons, are not accepted at typical recycling plants. 

Sorted cardboard is then fed into a cardboard baler to compress the stockpile into a more manageable package.

From there, the used cardboard is soaked in a process called pulping, which breaks it down into a pulp that can be reformed into something new. Used pulp is often mixed with pulp from fresh wood chips to increase strength and durability.

The mixture is then put through filtration to remove any extraneous elements such as tape or staples. During this step, the pulp is also stripped of its colors with chemicals.

Once the pulp is finalized, it’s dried and pressed, assuring all traces of water are removed. Mediums and linerboard are then created, which are glued and shaped into the finished recycled cardboard box we know and love. 

Now that we’ve gone through the steps to turn old cardboard into a fresh, new box, you may still ask, “Is cardboard biodegradable?”

Breaking It Down

The short answer is yes, cardboard is biodegradable. The real question is how long will it take to decompose? 

The kind of cardboard packaging used for drinks, such as fruit juice, can take up to five years to break down. This is due to the wax lining that keeps liquids from weakening the container. Corrugated, on the other hand, can take as little as two months.

Other determining factors include the surrounding environment and the cardboard’s physical state. A rich soil within a healthy ecosystem is vital for proper decomposition. An abundance of moisture will also facilitate a speedy breakdown.

For even faster degradation, cardboard should be broken into smaller pieces. When mixed with soil, you will have ideal conditions for a timely decomposition.

So to sum up, is cardboard biodegradable? Yes. It’s a very dependable option. But with so many factors determining its biodegradability, you want to make sure you’re choosing the most eco-friendly materials. That’s why we provide our customers with 100% recycled boxes. Brandable Box strives to offer the best quality and most environmentally beneficial shipping boxes with customizable options. Add your logo to your box and proudly represent your brand knowing your packaging materials are making a difference! 

This article was written by our content freelancer, Sam Zell-Breier.

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