It can be difficult to comprehend that your old food packaging or TV boxes can actually be reused somehow, but cardboard goes a long way into creating new materials and therefore decreasing carbon emissions. If you are wondering what journey cardboard goes through to become new materials, we’ve got you covered from start to finish.
Depending on your location, you may have curbside collection of cardboard and other recyclable materials. Whether this is in recycling-based bins or organised with recycling depots, this involves merely you placing your cardboard together in an area where the council or recycling professionals pick it up. This covers all kinds of cardboard except for wet products, or in some cases, used food packaging such as pizza boxes.
Alternatively, you can take large amounts of cardboard to a recycling depot. There, businesses like Thorntons Recycling will take it from you and handle the next phase.
Once the cardboard is taken, it is delivered to a recycling facility. At the recycling facility, the cardboard is sorted based on composition. Commonly, cardboard is separated from thin cardboard to corrugated cardboard. The thin materials are often used for cereal boxes or other food packages, while corrugated cardboard is for the packaging of large items for delivery such as electrical appliances.
This sorting determines what the materials will be reused as. Some paper mills will receive particular kinds of cardboard to reconstitute to certain types of paper, so this sorting phase is incredibly important.
The cardboard is the shredded into smaller pieces. This is to ease the pulping phases. The small pieces of cardboard are added to a large vat with a combination of chemicals and water. After all of these components are mixed, the end product is a slurry of sorts that will become the new product.
For this to happen, new materials are added such as woodchips to turn the slurry into more of a solid material. This material then goes through a filter where any material that could be detrimental to the final product is removed. This physically separates plastics from the cardboard.
The pulp is then dried. As it drys, it becomes solidified. Water is removed by rolling out the material that will also turn it into thin sheets. These thin sheets are then placed on top of each other piece by piece to make up a new sheet of cardboard.
The sheets go in different directions from here depending on their purpose. Some are sent to box manufacturers, and others are turned into corrugated cardboard for packaging purposes. Once they are shaped correctly, they will be reused accordingly.
Now you know the comprehensive recycling journey cardboard undergoes before it is reused. This process saves up to 70% of the natural resources it takes to manufacturer cardboard from scratch, and although it may sound detailed, it is worth it to help preserve our atmosphere.
If you have scrap cardboard around, swing by Thorntons Recycling in Adelaide where the environmentally passionate team will help you out!