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The Complete Cardboard Recycling Process: How It Works

As we continue to live through today’s climate emergency, we’re all becoming increasingly conscious of how our individual actions can affect the planet. One way in which we can manage our waste and in turn our usage of the Earth’s finite resources is through good recycling habits, where this allows materials to be reprocessed and reused rather than being disposed of and ending up in landfill sites.

A key material that we typically recycle is cardboard. Like paper, cardboard can be readily recycled to reduce waste production, where most households, businesses and commercial hubs now have infrastructure in place to assist with this.

But what happens to our cardboard when we add it to the recycling bin? And how is it used as a recycled product? Read on to find out the answers to these questions as we take a closer look at the cardboard recycling process.

Why Is Cardboard Recycling Important?

First of all we might consider why exactly cardboard should be recycled. The answer to this is manifold. Above all, we should all be trying to reduce the quantities of newly manufactured resources that we consume, where recycling in general can help to manage this. Recycling helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions emitted through the production, transportation and distribution of new materials, where this also applies to cardboard.

Further up the supply chain, cardboard is manufactured from trees, which need to be harvested to produce the materials we use. If more cardboard is recycled, then less new trees need to be cut down and replanted, helping to preserve the stability of the carbon cycle.

Sending materials to be recycled rather than to landfill sites also has its benefits. Landfill produces harmful gases such as methane when organic materials decompose, where these emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Types Of Cardboard Waste

Cardboard is used throughout our lives for a variety of different purposes, where many manufacturers are trying to use more cardboard packaging as an alternative to plastics.

Cardboard materials are used for both domestic and commercial products, where various uses include:

Domestic: this is the type of cardboard usage we’re most familiar with, where we regularly fill our residential recycling bins with food packaging, parcels and toilet roll tubes.

Commercial: businesses such as offices and public buildings also use cardboard, where waste can come from bulk orders of stationery, papers and food.

Industrial: on an industrial scale, cardboard waste originates from large container inlays and protective packaging for deliveries.

The Waste Cardboard Recycling Process

Cardboard of various forms can be recycled from domestic and commercial properties, where it needs to be collected, sorted and reconstituted to form new products. Read on below to learn more about the different steps involved in this process.

Cardboard Collection

Cardboard is collected from homes and businesses in bulk before it is transported to a recycling plant. For domestic properties, there are different kerbside collection regulations to abide by depending on how the local area operates. For commercial and industrial recycling, large scale collections will operate in a similar manner, where recycling bins are emptied and their contents are taken to a plant for processing.

Recycling collection typically takes place through one of three methods, where these include:

Kerbside sorting – where items to be recycled are sorted into different material categories within the lorry before it is taken away

Two stream sorting – where paper and card is distinguished and separated from other materials such as plastic and glass

Commingled collections – where all materials are collected together to be sorted at the recycling plant

Recycling will be organised in accordance with however the local recycling plant operates, where some are equipped to distinguish between materials with greater efficiency than others.


Once the cardboard has been transported to the recycling centre, it then needs to be fully processed and sorted. For commingled deliveries, items are sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where recycling can then be sorted into different material categories.

Various metals are extracted from the recycling conveyor belt using magnets, whilst types of plastic are typically identified using optical scanners. Leftover glass tends to be collected as the remaining material at the end of the sorting process. Beyond this, recycling plants are also equipped with machinery that can separate different types of cardboard and paper, where these are bundled together.


The sorted cardboard can then be taken to another specialist factory to be reprocessed. Typically it is turned into a mix of pulp and separated fibres through the addition of water and chemicals, where it is screened to remove unwanted inks, paperclips and glues.

This mixture is eventually reconstituted into a new sheet, which is compressed, rolled and heated to remove excess water. It can then be used for a wide range of applications such as for newspapers, paper bags and recycled cardboard.

Cardboard can also be composted with garden and food waste, where this can be done on both a residential and commercial scale. More widely however, recycling cardboard allows for a more efficient repurposing of this natural resource.

Highlander Security Shredding: Taking Care Of Your Cardboard Recycling

At Highlander Security Shredding, we can collect your waste paper and cardboard to be recycled securely in the local area. We take your waste to our East Kilbride Recycling Centre where it is baled and sent direct to paper mills where it will then be reprocessed and turned into new paper and card products.

We collect a wide selection of cardboard and paper waste to make your life easier, where some of the items we’re happy to pick up include:

  1. Old corrugated containers (OCC)

  2. Various types and grades of printing waste

  3. Newspapers and pamphlets

  4. Mixed paper

  5. Sorted office paper recycling

  6. Solid board cuttings, including box, grey and polycoat

  7. Waste wood

Cardboard & Paper Recycling Collection Tips

In order to make cardboard recycling easier on our end, we recommend that you follow our sorting advice carefulling. This helps to streamline the waste management process and ensures that the maximum amount of materials are recycled properly.

We suggest that your cardboard and paper is given to us in its driest possible state, where most grades are only acceptable with a maximum water quantity of 10%. High moisture

levels can alter the density of the cardboard, making it harder to separate from other materials, whilst water can also alter the structure of the paper fibres.

In general we find it easier to collect paper and cardboard waste that has been secured into bundles or bales. This is because it can be stacked easily during transportation, where it can then be processed quickly, especially if similar grades of materials have been grouped together. We recommend that you secure your bales with at least four wire ties to ensure the stack remains together.

Another important point to note is that paper waste should be kept separate from cardboard, corrugated materials and boards, where this makes the sorting process much easier on our end. In addition to this, we recommend that your cardboard recycling is given to us free from contaminants, where these include metals, plastics, glass and synthetic materials. All of these can hinder the waste paper collection and recycling process, minimising the economic benefits for your business.

Our Wider Services

Alongside our recycling services, we also offer comprehensive and secure document shredding to help keep your company data safe. If you’re destroying large quantities of data, then you need to ensure that this process is carried out with high levels of efficiency and discretion to avoid potentially harmful information leaks.

We can provide confidential waste bags for your shredded materials to ensure a secure collection and disposal, where we then recycle all paper shreddings. Additionally, if we’re shredding on your behalf, we can guarantee that your documents will have been destroyed within twenty four hours, after which we can then provide you with a certificate of destruction.

We’re adept at handling sensitive documents and shredded materials of all kinds and volumes, where security is always our top priority. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our shredding or cardboard recycling services

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