cardboard waste collection
Ways to Reduce Cardboard Waste

How to Reduce Cardboard Waste

Cardboard is one of the most popular materials for packaging as it’s lightweight, strong, and versatile. It’s also highly recyclable and biodegradable. However, producing cardboard can impact deforestation and use lots of water and oil. Even recycling cardboard requires plenty of energy that affects the environment.

In the UK we use more than 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard every year. Reducing how much cardboard businesses and homes in the UK use minimises the amount of waste produced and the environmental impact. When cardboard products are used it’s important they’re recycled and disposed of responsibly.

Reducing cardboard waste benefits the environment and lowers your waste disposal costs. Find out how to reduce cardboard waste produced by your business or household with our expert tips.

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Why is reducing cardboard 
waste important?

Cardboard is a sustainable material. However, it’s important to reduce how much cardboard we use and waste as it can contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction. Excess cardboard waste and improper disposal may also increase demand for new wood pulp products that further impacts this.

Currently in the UK, 70.6% of paper and cardboard packaging is recycled every year. This means cardboard is one of the most recycled materials but shows that almost 30% of cardboard isn’t recycled and may end up in landfill. Reducing cardboard waste minimises the risk of it going to a landfill site. Explore more cardboard waste facts and stats.

Cardboard is biodegradable, which means it breaks down over time. This might sound good for the environment but if it ends up in landfill it takes up valuable space when it could be recycled and produces methane as it biodegrades. This traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

Recycling cardboard should always be the aim when you have any for disposal. This avoids releasing methane through landfill or other disposal methods, minimises the need to cut down more trees, and saves energy, water, and oil otherwise used to create fresh cardboard.

cardboard boxes in the back of a van.

How to reduce cardboard 
waste as a business

Most businesses use cardboard daily in one form or another. It could be as packaging when receiving or sending out orders, for storage, or simply handing out business cards. The amount of waste cardboard your company generates can soon add up. Taking steps to reduce cardboard use and waste can benefit the environment and your budget.

A few ways to reduce cardboard waste as a business are to:

  • Develop a minimal packaging design – packaging is the main use of cardboard by businesses to protect products on their way to customers. If your organisation oversees its packaging designs then changing to one that uses as little cardboard as possible helps reduce waste. Or switch suppliers to a packaging firm with minimal yet effective designs.
  • Reuse cardboard for shipping – a simple way to reduce cardboard waste is to reuse any delivery boxes and packaging for shipping your company’s own products. Reusing your own boxes and packaging ensures branding is in place. If that’s not necessary then reuse other cardboard boxes from deliveries your company receives.
  • Consider shredding cardboard – most cardboard can go through an industrial shredder to chip it down into small pieces. Use these to fill packaging as an alternative to bubble wrap or packing peanuts when sending out products. It also helps speed up composting.
  • Educate employees – have a clear cardboard disposal policy in place at your business and ensure all employees are aware of the process. This could involve reusing cardboard boxes, taking them to a baler, or simply folding them up and placing them in any cardboard recycling bins. This should reduce cardboard waste and ensure it’s all disposed of responsibly.
  • Use a baler or compactor balers and compactors can compress cardboard waste and reduce its volume by up to 90%. These are static containers, so you’ll need space for one on site, but they significantly reduce waste cardboard volumes, which in turn lowers collection costs. Then all cardboard can be recycled.

How to reduce cardboard 
waste at home

Households produce tonnes of cardboard waste each day – from throwing out old cereal boxes to disposing of birthday cards and packaging from your last online delivery. It’s estimated that the average family gets rid of around 13,000 bits of cardboard every year in the UK. Minimising domestic cardboard waste can help protect the environment.

To reduce cardboard waste at home:

  • Reuse cardboard boxes for storage – easily extend the lifespan of any cardboard boxes by using them for storage. It could be keeping photos and mementoes in a shoebox, packing away Christmas decorations into delivery boxes before they’re put in the loft, or storing instruction manuals in an old cereal box.
  • Save cardboard for moving home – storing cardboard boxes in your loft, cellar, or spare room for a future house move saves time, effort, and resources in the future. Whether you’re planning to move home or know someone else who is, having them to hand avoids buying moving boxes that cost more and create additional waste.
  • Make arts and crafts – cardboard sheets, kitchen rolls, and packaging boxes are great resources for your kids (or you) to get crafty. All sorts of cardboard can be cut and formed into shapes to make greeting cards – just add your own design. Sticking together boxes and cardboard tubes is a great rainy-day activity too.
  • Compost cardboard – you can compost some cardboard and it helps balance many compost piles as it’s rich in carbon. Remove any sticky tape, glue, glitter, and other contaminants, then shred or break up big pieces to speed up the composting process. It may take between six to eight months for the cardboard to fully decompose. Discover how to compost.
  • Recycle old cardboard – place any cardboard waste you can’t reuse in your household recycling bin, bag, or box. Most local authorities and councils accept cardboard in their domestic recycling collections, just check the right bin depending on where you live. For higher volumes, you can always take cardboard to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) for responsible disposal.
cardboard box on a shelf as storage.

Read more waste reduction guides

Once you’ve reduced how much cardboard waste your business or home produces there are plenty more rubbish types to cut down. Find out how to reduce all sorts of waste in our other guides.

How to reduce waste
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