Recycled cardboard is cardboard that has been made with recycled materials, reducing the amount of new materials which had to be used in its manufacture. This form of cardboard is believed to be more environmentally friendly, and many companies that like to engage in environmentally conscious practices use recycled cardboard and other recycled materials in their packaging. It is also possible for consumers to purchase recycled cardboard for their own use.
The term “cardboard” is used generically to refer to any sort of heavy duty paper product. A classic form of cardboard is corrugated cardboard, which consists of a sheet of wavy cardstock compressed between two sheets of cardstock, providing a very sturdy and strong material which can be used in packaging. The manufacture of cardboard requires many more resources than lighter cardstock and other paper products, which can make all-new cardboard a costly proposition.
In the case of recycled cardboard, it is rare to see 100% recycled material. Instead, manufacturers create a blend of recycled material and new material for increased sturdiness. The packaging usually indicates the percentage of recycled material in the cardboard, with a label like “25% recycled” or “25% post-consumer material.” Using purely recycled material could potentially result in a weak product which might fail, because the individual fibers of the cardboard grow shorter with each recycling, weakening the bonds which make cardboard strong.
Many people associate coarse, brown paper products with “recycled” paper and cardboard. In fact, it is possible to make recycled cardboard with a smooth texture, along with bleached recycled cardboard which can be white, tan, or any other color, with the use of dyes. Historically, companies have left recycled paper products more coarse to prove that recycled material is involved, and the natural color is retained to avoid using potentially toxic bleach and dyes in processing.
Consumers can recycle the cardboard they encounter in packaging and other situations. Most municipal recycling agencies collect cardboard with other common recyclables like glass and plastic, and it is also often possible to deliver cardboard in bulk to a recycling plant, for people who deal with a high volume of cardboard. By recycling cardboard, people promote the use of recycled materials, reducing the number of trees which must be harvested specifically for the purpose of making paper products like cardboard.