By: Ashlee Forman
Next time you’re at the grocery store, take a moment to observe your surroundings. What you may come to notice is that the overwhelming majority of products are packaged using cardboard. While cardboard first appeared in China in the 15th century, it became a popular packaging product in the west at the beginning of the 20th century1. Cardboard boxes and packaging began replacing wooden crates, which at the time were the container of choice for shipping.
Today, cardboard and other paper products comprise roughly 40 percent of our solid waste stream in the United States.2 It’s no wonder this is the case if you consider that most of the products we buy come packaged in cardboard. Cardboard has become the single most accessible packaging material on the market. It’s versatile, lightweight, recyclable, and low-cost, making it the ideal packaging material for a wide variety of products. It also absorbs moisture, making it a great option for storing food products.
The Blaine County Recycle Center will process more than 3 million pounds of cardboard for recycling this year. Cardboard alone makes up 70 percent of the total recycling input.
Step 1: Collection
In Blaine County, only clean, corrugated cardboard is recycled. Non-corrugated paperboard is not recyclable, such as cereal boxes. Residents, businesses and visitors can recycle cardboard at easy to access drop-off locations listed below. The City of Hailey Park and Ride and City of Ketchum locations feature easy-to-use cardboard compactors. This video illustrates ease of use. These new compactors replaced often-overflowing dumpsters and have reduced the number of truck trips to the Blaine County Recycle Center.
- Bellevue Fire Department at 517 2nd Street N
- Bellevue at 130 Riverview Drive
- Blaine County Recycle Center at 110 Ohio Gulch Road
- Carey Transfer Station at 19401 US HWY 20
- Hailey Fire Department at 617 S 3rd Avenue
- Hailey Park and Ride at River Street and Bullion Street
- Ketchum at 215 Lewis Street
- Smiley Creek across the Smiley Creek Lodge on N Highway 75
Businesses and contractors can also sign up for cardboard collection services for their business or job-site location. Visit Clear Creek Disposal’s website to learn more at: https://ccdisposal.com/commercial/.
Step 2: Processing
Once the cardboard is dropped off or picked up at its appropriate location by Clear Creek Disposal it is then transported to the Blaine County Recycle Center. At the Recycle Center it is sorted, compacted, baled, and stored until it’s ready to be shipped out to a processing center. A processing center takes over the process of turning the recycled material into a new feedstock or new products! Feedstocks are raw materials used for the manufacturing of a product.
Step 3: Selling
The Blaine County Recycle Center sells the cardboard to processors located in the Northwest such as Green Planet 21. The processors transform recycled cardboard into usable fibers.
The sale of cardboard helps to support the Blaine County Recycle Center operations. The Recycle Center has four, full-time employees including a Recycle Center Supervisor and three Recycle Center Equipment Operators.
Step 4: Remanufacturing
Green Planet 21 describes the process they use for turning our recycled cardboard into usable products. Our community and the Blaine County Recycle Center team take care of the first step in a multi-step process: separation. Cardboard must be clean, separated and sorted prior to shipment. Green Planet 21 processes the cardboard into pulp, and then separates and bleaches the fibers. The fibers are cleaned again before being pressed and rolled into paper. The paper is manufactured into boxes or other new products. For more information visit https://greenplanet21.com/services/cardboard-and-paper/.
What is Corrugated Cardboard?
You may have heard the terms corrugated and noncorrugated used to describe cardboard. If you’ve ever wondered what those mean then read on! Corrugated refers to the process of pressing the cardboard into a wavy or ridged texture, like the middle layer of cardboard boxes. This process provides structural durability, an ideal characteristic for products like moving boxes that are roughly handled and stacked.
Why Should You Care About Recycling Cardboard?
While cardboard and paper packaging products are in many ways a more sustainable option compared to their plastic counterparts, they still have a huge impact on the planet. It takes massive amounts of resources, including trees, energy, and water to produce the amount of cardboard used in the United States. According to one estimate, approximately 95 trees are cut down every second to fill the world’s paper packaging demand4.
One way to preserve a portion of these inputs is by recycling paper-based products instead of sending them to a landfill. While they will easily decompose in a landfill, unlike plastic, paper products release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere as they break down. Methane is 25 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The trade-off is clear, a minimal effort on the consumer's end results in a huge win for the environment, either through re-use or the proper recycling of your cardboard and paper products.