Billions of boxes are manufactured every year in our country, and this number is expected to increase over the next years due to the EU’s war on plastic.
Waste management in Europe has shifted towards recycling and, when it comes to carboard recycling, Italy is in among the top countries in Europe and has already hit its recycling targets for 2025 and is ahead of the target set for 2035. At per capita level, our region, Emilia Romagna was the most virtuous region with over 90 kg of paper and cardboard collected per inhabitant.
Some characteristics that make carboard a great material for recycling are:
- Cardboard packaging retains its value for longer than many other packaging materials as its fiber can be used many times before becoming useless
- It’s easy to store, bale, and transport thanks to its lightweight
- It has the highest recycling rate of all packaging products
For all these reasons, it can be seen as a resource and it can help us reduce the need for raw materials in the manufacturing process, it requires less water and energy to produce and helps us keep our forest safe and healthy.
Carboard is an ideal material to recycle and it is our responsibility to understand its role in shifting towards a more sustainable life by putting into place recycling plans both as individuals, industries and countries.
What types of carboard are normally used in packaging?
When choosing the best packaging material for their products, these features will help companies make a decision:
- Weight of the load
- Size of the products
- Conditions that the load will be subject to (weather conditions in outdoor spaces)
- Printing a labelling for marketing purposes
- Coatings and treatments for different products
Basically, companies will choose between three main types of cardboard: corrugated fiberboard, paperboard (or chipboard) and rigid boxes.
Corrugated fiberboard- the Shipping Box
Corrugated cardboard is made of three-ply construction. There are two smooth outer faces with a wavy corrugated layer in the middle which comes from a different kind of paper pulp that is thinner and ripples easily.
This type of material it is easy to cut, bend, fold, and drill and is surprisingly strong at the same time.
Corrugated cardboard is widely used for industrial packaging and can be designed in a variety of colors, styles and sizes. It is lightweight and can be easily printed on.
To enhance safety and improve the brand, corrugated cartons are frequently sealed with water activated tape, especially when they are used in food packaging
Chipboard- the Cereal Box
Chipboard or paperboard is the single ply cardboard that makes up your cereal box. It’s basically a thick paper that is usually made from 100 percent recycled fiber. It is usually printed, laminated and cut into shape, then folded and ready for shipping.
What varies the most in chipboard is density and this makes it extremely versatile in its use. You might see it in the back of paper notepads as well as in the hard cover of books and in flooring and countertops when the density is high. It’s cost-effective and easy to treat, making it an overall great material to use.
Rigid boxes are sturdy and strong and are typically used for heavy loads and delicate products. They are durable and also easy to customize. They give the customer a sense of high quality of the product so they are frequently used in luxury packaging like smartphones or jewelry.
How is cardboard recycled exactly?
Carboard packaging is normally single use. We open the box then dispose of it. For this reason, it is particularly important to have a good recycling system.
Here is how carboard recycling works:
First of all, carboard must be collected in dedicated bins. Based on the indications given on the box, we can separate plastic parts when the producers use a mix of packaging materials.
Not all cardboard can be recycled:
- Pizza boxes, for example, might have oil stains and food particles on them, and should be thrown in the regular bin as well as every product that might compromise the recycling process by contaminating the other cardboard in the trash
- Waxed- multilayered carboard used for refrigerated products cannot be recycled and belongs in the garbage
Once all clean and dry carboard is collected, it will be sent to a recycling center.
Different types of carboard are made from different materials and undergo different processes, so the carboard in the recycling center must be separated into different categories.
After that cardboard is shredded into tiny pieces.
The shredded carboard is mixed with and soaked in water so it becomes softer and foreign materials like inks are filtered and finally removed.
After that the cardboard needs to be rolled and pressed to squeeze all the excess water out.
Carboard is dried on conveyor belts that pass through drying machines.
Converted to new cardboard
New carboard is manufactured and separated into rolls which can be used for various purposes.
Cardboard can be recycled about five to seven times as the paper fibers get shorter with every recycling and become unusable.
What are the benefits of recycling?
The demand for recycled cardboard packaging had been strong thanks to its many benefits, that include:
Saving virgin trees and reducing C02
One ton of recycled cardboard can save up to 17 trees. These trees absorb about 250 pounds of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, so it is vital that we do our best to support the recycling process both as individuals and as companies.
Preserving landfill space
Cardboard waste takes a lot of space and decades to disintegrate. Choosing to recycle cardboard allows us to save space and give a second life to carboard.
A lot of water is saved in the pulping phase when using carboard instead of using a virgin tree.
Reuse of cardboard reduces the demands on trees and will help us preserve healthy forests.
Reducing energy consumption
Virgin trees that are converted into carboard require e long process and use much more energy that recycling cardboard. In this way greenhouse gases are lowered significantly.
Creating job opportunity
The cardboard recycling process needs people, creates loads of jobs: from collecting the cardboard waste until the finished product reaches the market.
How does Toppy contribute to carboard recycling?
Sustainability is something we strongly believe in and we are happy to be part of the supply chain when it comes to carboard recycling.
Here is how we contribute:
- In the recycling process the new carboard is dried. This new carboard is not a noble material and needs our pile turners with Air and Vibration to improve its quality
- Our machines have air blowers that help the drying process in the final stages and allow for dust removal which gives a better finished product
- Our machines allow the operator to quickly find and remove all waste sheets
Our pile turners can be used as stand-alone on in line to facilitate the drying process and support the operator in quality control of the materials. The load can then be aligned and centered on the pallet and move on to the next phase.
It’s common sense that recycling cardboard is more sustainable than cutting down trees to make virgin paper products. It is up to us to make sure that we are recycling correctly, so the system works properly.
Corrugated carboard, chipboard and rigid boxed are all ideal candidates for recycling, and to do that as best we can, we need to check the boxes are clean and not coated with wax or other types of plastic coating.
The advantages we have seen are indisputable and all countries have recycling systems in place to make things easier for us and ensure a safe future and sustainable use of packaging materials.
Toppy is happy to be part of the supply chain. If you are interested in any further information about our machines, our team of experts is at your disposal.