Today, 54% of the paper industry’s raw material comes from recovered paper and cardboard and Europe leads the way with a recycling rate of 72%. In the USA, paper and cardboard recycling continues to rise, with the Government having set a recovery target of 55%.
It is clear that cardboard recycling is big business. In the most recent data for the UK, recycled cardboard was selling for £74 and £92 per tonne. Last year, paper recycling rose by 1.5% to an astonishing 8.5 million tonnes.
So what does this mean? Well, we are all recycling more of our cardboard, which is great news for both business and the environment but what happens to your cardboard when it is recycled and what is it used for?
After it is collected, your recycled cardboard is heated and soaked in order to form a pulp, with any remaining glue, ink or staples removed through screening and chemical processes. This pulp is then mashed and beaten, and fed through a flattening machine where it is made into strips. These strips are then dried – and your old cardboard prepares itself for its new life!
On average, this process uses 70% less energy than it would do to make the same amount of paper from raw materials, that’s a huge saving. Often it is recycled as paper, but can also be used in packaging materials. In fact, almost all of the newspapers, magazines, books and cardboard boxes produced in the UK contain some element of recycled cardboard. Recycled cardboard that is not used in its country of origin is often exported, in the UK this accounts for over 55% of the product, over 70% of which is exported to China.
So where does it go from here? As it becomes more pertinent to recycle our waste, it also becomes easier and more profitable. Recycled cardboard is now a major element of business around the world, especially in those countries, like the UK, which rely on it for most of their paper products.