The Wonderful World of Corrugated Recycling

May 12, 2016


If you take nothing else from this post, know this: Corrugated paper is amazingly easy to recycle, and if you’re not recycling it, you should. There, you can stop reading. Wait! Don’t go. For more inspiration, check out these facts from

  • Recycling cardboard only takes 75% of the energy needed to make new cardboard.
  • Recycling 1 ton of cardboard means saving 46 gallons of oil.
  • Over 90% of all products shipped in the US are transported in corrugated boxes.
  • Almost 80% of all retailers (including grocers) recycle their cardboard.

Should recyclables like corrugated be banned from landfills?

There is a push in some cities such as Lincoln, Nebraska to ban corrugated from entering landfills and require it to be recycled instead. Fort Collins, Colorado and the entire State of Wisconsin are among other communities to already go this route.

“Corrugated is one of those things that you don’t have to put a lot of thought into recycling,” says Mike Martinez, Ernest Packaging Solutions’ Director of Design Solutions. “It’s been an industry for as long as I can remember. The logistics are worked out and it’s quite efficient.”

It’s true. Long before recycling bins dotted the landscape on trash day, corrugated recycling processes have been chugging along for years. And it’s changed the paper industry, too. For instance, in corrugated boxes that contained fruit were often coated in a paraffin wax 15 years ago. The bad news is the wax wasn’t recyclable and in fact, could cause big problems with machinery if it made its way into the recycling process.

Today, the water-based and fully recyclable coating has overtaken paraffin and food containers can now be recycled.  

“As packaging designers, we demand better performance from our product,” Martinez says. “Some food-grade boxes looked unsightly without some type of coating, but it didn’t need wax. That message finally got through to manufacturers.”

Sustainable packaging design happens when the designers understand and genuinely care about reducing waste and keeping materials out of landfills. Mike and the rest of the Ernest Design Specialists live and breathe sustainability every day. Want to talk about it? We’d love to! Contact Ernest Packaging Solutions today to learn how you can recycle more material from the production line and help keep the packaging industry moving forward.