Fact Sheet: Reducing Corrugated Cardboard Waste
Office of Waste Reduction Services
State of Michigan
Departments of Commerce and Natural Resources
Old corrugated cardboard (OCC) is one of the most commonly found materials in commercial and industrial waste streams. It is also one of the easiest materials to reduce at the source, reuse and recycle. OCC collection systems are relatively simple to set up. OCC is readily identifiable, is often available in large pieces and has a ready market. Indeed, reducing OCC waste is often a company's first waste reduction program.
Reducing Cardboard Waste Can Save You Money
Because cardboard is so bulky, its removal from the waste stream can dramatically reduce waste collection, hauling and disposal costs. Eliminating cardboard will enable you to reduce the number of waste dumpsters, the size of the waste dumpsters and/or the number of pickups needed. If you pay by volume or pickup, this will save you money.
Some Cardboard Facts
Types of Cardboard Which Can Be Recycled
The term "cardboard" is used by paper and paper recycling businesses to mean the corrugated container board used mostly for packing and storage boxes. The term excludes paper-board, which is commonly used in cereal boxes, shoe boxes and backing for legal pads. Both cardboard and paperboard can be recycled. Paper board, however, has a very limited recycling market at this time.
Figure [(see source document)]
Contaminants To Avoid
Most cardboard buyers restrict the levels of allowable contamination and will pay substantially less for contaminated loads of cardboard. Contaminants are items which interfere with the remanufacturing process and must be pulled out of the cardboard by the generator, the hauler, the broker or the mill. These items include:
- Polystyrene foam, wood, plastic, metal and other non-soluble materials are significant contaminants and should be avoided to the extent possible.
- Waxed cardboard, used for shipment of some food products, cannot be recycled and must be separated from non-wax cardboard.
- Old newspaper and office paper waste are considered contaminants if present in large quantities.
- Wet cardboard can be recycled, if it is not small volumes of certain types of materials such as plastic packaging tape, carton staples, adhesive labels, glue bindings and kraft paper tape.
Reducing OCC At The Source
There are a number of approaches your firm can take to reduce the amount of cardboard generated in the first place.
- Use of reusable containers. Most cardboard is used for one- way, one-time packaging. Many companies are successfully reducing the cardboard they handle by substituting the cardboard containers they receive from suppliers and ship to customers with plastic, wooden or metal reusable containers.
While often more expensive than cardboard containers, reusable containers are more durable and have a much longer useful life. This reduces a business' waste bill and its cardboard packaging bill. Additionally, returnable containers can often be designed to protect contained supplies and parts without added spacers, reinforcements and protective covers. Further, many reusable containers are designed for stackability and nesting to save storage space.
- Backhaul cardboard containers. Many businesses backhaul cardboard (along with the associated stiffeners, fillers and liners) to suppliers and from customers. Backhauled cardboard and packaging can then be reused or recycled. This reduces waste for suppliers and customers alike, improves truck utilization and reduces the costs to purchase new packaging materials.
Figure[(see source document)]
Backhauling is particularly popular among food store chains. After supplies are delivered, baled and loose OCC is hauled from the distribution store to centralized warehouses where the cardboard is prepared for sale.
- Purchase supplies and parts in bulk quantities. Significant cardboard savings can be realized simply by purchasing in bulk instead of small, individual packages.
Many businesses recognize the reuse value of cardboard boxes and keep them in circulation in a number of ways:
- Donate or sell cardboard containers. There are numerous opportunities to donate or sell cardboard boxes to other firms and non-profit organizations. Most boxes can be given away and there is a significant market for "gaylord" boxes in many areas. Gaylord boxes are standard industrial strength containers (typically 4' x 4' x 4') used to transport and store bulk materials.
- Distribute cardboard boxes within the business. Businesses frequently give copy paper boxes, office supply boxes and other smaller cardboard containers to employees, who use the boxes for moving, wrapping gifts, etc. Boxes may also be used within the business to store and ship recyclable materials, such as office paper, plastic and glass.
Recycling cardboard is commonly the first serious waste reduction program implemented by many businesses. Cardboard recycling may be implemented in the office, the mail room, the inventory room, the shipping/receiving area and kitchens, as well as the manufacturing area.
- Getting Started: It is first necessary to determine how much cardboard is generated and can be recycled. A look at your waste records, your cardboard purchases and composition of waste in your dumpsters should give you a sound starting point.
- Determine the Recycling Market for Cardboard: After determining how much cardboard will be available for recycling, you should talk with local and area-wide cardboard buyers to determine the level and price of recycling services available. It is important to know:
Names and addresses of some cardboard buyers are available from the Office of Waste Reduction Services (517) 335-1178. You may locate others by contacting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, by looking in the Yellow Pages and by calling others who you know currently recycle their cardboard.
- Location and capacity of each potential buyer
- Current and historical prices paid per ton by the buyer for cardboard
- Minimum and maximum quantities acceptable for pick up
- Whether the buyer will pick up loose sheets or will require compacting or baling
- Price differentials for different levels of service
- Whether the buyer will furnish collection containers without charge
- Contamination restrictions.
- Collection: Cardboard collection is commonly a two-step process. first, staff of each operation which generates cardboard boxes must remove any contaminants, flatten the boxes and place them in designated carts. Second, custodial or maintenance staff must regularly service these carts, transporting the cardboard to a designated processing/shipping area.
- Processing: Many businesses use a compactor or baler to reduce the volume of recycled cardboard, reduce the storage space requirements and to command a higher market price. Compactors and balers are available in many sized and may be leased or purchased from vendors and waste haulers. Smaller businesses which cannot justify on-site compaction or baling may consider joint processing with other business neighbors.
- Shipping: The shipping requirements for cardboard will depend upon the volume and condition of the cardboard, the distance to the buyer and the buyer's needs. Generally, the greater the volume, the more frequent the collection and the larger the vehicle required.
|Flattened and strapped to pallets||Semi-trailer|
|Flattened and stacked loose||Flatbed or Box truck|
|Placed loose or compacted in dumpster||Compactor truck|
|Placed loose or compacted in roll-off||Roll-off truck|
|Baled||Flatbed or Box truck|
Figure [(see source document)]
Resource Recycling Systems, Inc.
The Clean Michigan Fund
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
For more information on the subject of waste reduction for businesses, contact
The Office of Waste Reduction Services
P.O. Box 30004
Lansing, MI 48909
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Last Updated: November 10, 1995