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Recycling of Corrugated Boxes – Learn All About It

Corrugated cardboard“ – more often than not, we use this term for an extensive range of packaging boxes or containers, including single wall shipping boxes, double wall shipping boxes, folding boxes, RSC boxes, POP displays, mail tubes and custom boxes. Corrugated containers form the largest segment of the packaging industry in the USA. There are more than 1500 corrugated box manufacturing plants in North America alone.

Corrugated containers comprise of the fluted inner layer which is intervened between the layers of linerboard. They have high resistance to damage from vibration and drops, and are very light in weight, which makes them ideal for shipment packaging. If you are planning on shipping something heavier, heavy duty shipping boxes made of corrugated cardboard are used to ship heavier goods or products.

Fortunately, corrugated containers are easily recyclable. In fact, they are the most recycled product, by weight, and greatly reduce the amount of waste being dumped every year. Due to the high demand for corrugated packaging products, its recycling rate has more than doubled, and disposal rate has decreased dramatically.
Now, let’s see how the recycling of corrugated boxes works:

OCC Pulp

Paper recyclers acknowledge using corrugated boxes as OCC, old corrugated containers. Recyclers first collect, sort, and bundle used cartons and then ship them to paper mills. The sorted bales are then passed through a repulper, which is filled with water. In the repulper, boxes are churned until they become fiber slurry.

Impurity Removal

A rope or chain kind of part in the repulper attracts contaminants to stick on it. The remaining pulp of boxes is sent into other equipment where impurities like metal are forced to the bottom, and lighter contaminants, like plastic, automatically come to the surface, so it can be easily removed.

Composing Paper

After the removal of contaminants is complete, pure pulp moves into a paper machine, where most of the left water is drained off via a moving screen, and create a fiber mat. The mat goes between two rollers to squeeze out the remaining water. It then moves between heated cylinders to get dry enough to coil on large spindles. Paper rolls are created and sent to manufactures.

Creating New Containers

Manufactures and packaging companies can use recycled paper for the flat liner sheets or fluted medium between these liners, and create new corrugated containers. According to the technical association, the liner paperboard used in corrugated containers can be comprised of 100% recycled content, but most containers have only 35% recycled content.

Some interesting facts and figures of the paper industry:

• 29.7 million tons of corrugated boxes produced every year, out of this, 24.2 million tons boxes go into recycling process marking a recycling rate of 81.2%.
• Corrugated containers are the third largest disposed-of product by weight.
• Impurities in pulp mostly include wax coatings, plastics, chipboard, and mill wrappers.
• OCC production has increased by 305 percent and its market share has increased by 43 percent since 1960.

The recycling process of corrugated boxes is much easier and cheaper compared to other packaging solutions out there, including plastic containers and metal containers. Moreover, corrugated containers are a key promoter of ‘green earth’.


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