cardboard boxes.
Facts about cardboard recycling

Cardboard Waste Facts and Statistics

Around the world more than 70 million tonnes of cardboard are produced each year – not including corrugated board, which is a different material. Lots of this ends up as waste once used. The good news is cardboard is one of the most recycled materials on the planet.

Still, businesses and consumer demand create incredible levels of waste cardboard. It’s one of the main materials for packaging all sorts of products, which is often discarded after serving its purpose. This includes everything from packaging for online orders to empty pizza boxes and cardboard tubes for posters.

Get a sense of how much cardboard we work through and why increasing recycling is important with these statistics and facts about cardboard waste.

Examples of cardboard waste

The main use of cardboard is for packaging products of many types and sizes. This ranges from a small box of raisins to the huge boxes used to contain furniture and appliances for shipping overseas. Once the product inside has been removed (eaten or delivered, for example), the cardboard becomes waste.

Common examples of waste cardboard are:

  • Food packaging – cereal boxes, pizza boxes
  • Delivery boxes for online orders
  • Shipping packaging for furniture, appliances, and large goods
  • Shoe boxes
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Toilet and kitchen paper rolls
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Tissue boxes and washing powder boxes

What causes cardboard waste?

The main cause of cardboard waste is packaging. Cardboard of varying grades are used to make everything from cereal boxes and tissue boxes to the packaging used for goods ordered online. Once the contents have been used then there’s no need for the box or packaging and it’s thrown away.

A rise in e-commerce and online shopping has seen more cardboard waste as it’s the primary choice of packaging for many products. Businesses are also responsible for cardboard waste through their packaging designs, manufacturing processes, and waste management practices. Many cardboard boxes can be reused commercially to cut down on waste.

Creating cardboard waste is unavoidable in many cases and it’s a good packaging material. It’s strong and durable, and cardboard waste is recyclable (as long as it’s not contaminated) and biodegradable in the right conditions. However, reducing cardboard waste in the first place is best to save energy and resources, and protect the environment.

four cardboard pizza boxes stacked on each other.

Cardboard waste statistics

Cardboard is an incredibly popular material for packaging across the world. Many cardboard waste facts and statistics overlap or are combined with those for paper, due to their similarities. Plus, most paper and cardboard can be stored together, and certain grades recycled in the same process (depending on their exact type).

Discover how much cardboard we use and dispose of with these cardboard waste statistics:

  • The world produces more than 72 million tonnes of cardboard annually – though this doesn’t all go to waste
  • Cardboard and paper form 17% of global waste – the second-highest amount after food and green waste
  • Around 90% of products are shipped in cardboard packaging materials
  • The global cardboard industry is worth more than £3 billion
  • 17 billion cardboard tubes are thrown away every year
  • It takes around two months for cardboard to biodegrade
  • 40% of all waste thrown out in the USA is cardboard or paper
  • Paper and cardboard are the main packaging waste material in the EU – responsible for 34 million tonnes annually

UK cardboard waste facts

The UK generates the most cardboard waste in Europe, followed by Germany and France. The country has a high recycling rate for cardboard with lots also composted but plenty unfortunately makes its way to landfill as well. Find out more with these facts and stats about cardboard waste in the UK:

  • 5,389,000 tons of paper and cardboard packaging wasteis produced in the UK every year
  • Paper and cardboard packaging has a recycling rate of 70.6%
  • 3,802,000 tons of paper and cardboard packaging are recycled annually
  • About 3 million tonnes of cardboard is composted each year in the UK
  • Recycling corrugated cardboard in the UK saves the equivalent of 34 million trees each year
  • 3 million tonnes of cardboard are composted every year across the UK

Cardboard recycling facts

Cardboard boxes are one of the most recycled items in the world. Unfortunately, cardboard can’t be recycled repeatedly as it starts to degrade in quality each time it’s recycled. However, it should still be separated and sent to recycling facilities rather than landfill when it reaches the end of its life.

These cardboard recycling facts show the huge environmental benefits of recycling waste cardboard:

  • Recycling one tonne of cardboard saves 7,000 tonnes of water and around 210 litres of oil
  • By recycling one tonne of cardboard it could save 17 trees
  • Creating cardboard from recycled materials uses 75% of the energy compared to making new cardboard
  • Recycling one tonne of cardboard saves 4,000kW of energy
  • For every tonne of cardboard recycled, it can save about nine cubic yards of landfill space
  • After going through the recycling process a few times the card fibres become too short to retain a structure and wear out
  • Technological advancements and design developments mean packaging companies use materials that are 20% lighter than ten years ago, which creates less waste
cardboard toilet rolls.

How should I get rid 
of my cardboard waste?

At home, you can dispose of most types of cardboard in your household recycling bin, bag, or container. Almost all local councils and authorities accept waste cardboard in their recycling collections – just ensure it’s clean and dry. For large amounts of cardboard, you can take them to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC).

Businesses should have dedicated cardboard waste bins in place to store such recyclable rubbish. If your organisation produces high volumes of waste cardboard you might benefit from a compactor or baler. Companies that only produce low amounts (such as the odd bit of packaging in an office) may be better with a dry mixed recycling bin.

Either way, you must arrange collection by licensed waste carriers to ensure your commercial cardboard waste is removed and recycled responsibly and legally. We can provide free bins for your cardboard and arrange collection on a daily, weekly, or fortnightly basis for businesses anywhere in the UK.

All cardboard is removed on time and transported to a nearby facility for recycling to save your company money and help protect the environment. Get a free quote for cardboard collection in the UK today, whatever type, size, and number of bins you need – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online.

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