The Limited Recyclability of Cardboard Packaging

The Limits Of Recycling Cardboard Mailers

With the rise of online shopping, there are 34 million packages shipped every single day in the United States and that’s from UPS and FedEx alone! Of these daily shipments, over 90% are sent using cardboard boxes. While cardboard is such a popular material and touted as recyclable, there are also environmental downsides to its widespread use.

To start, only around 80% of cardboard packaging gets recycled. The scale of cardboard packaging waste is really unimaginable! Researchers estimate that the average U.S. household sends at least 13,000 pieces of cardboard packaging to U.S. landfills in just a single year.

The main reason why this waste occurs is because every time cardboard or other paper materials are recycled, their fibers get shorter and weaker. Thus, this material can only be recycled up to five to seven times before it can no longer undergo the recycling process again.

In addition, if there is inclement weather and a cardboard box gets thoroughly wet, it may not be recyclable. Only boxes that are completely dry are accepted by recycling centers, as wet materials are prone to producing molds that would be a health hazard to recycle. Other times, even if consumers wait for their cardboard to dry overnight, the mailer might become too brittle due to the excess moisture it soaked up prior to drying. These brittle pieces can cause clogs in automated sorting machines that would disrupt the recycling process and are often sorted out or discarded.

With the skyrocketing rate of online shoppers, the number of non-recycled cardboard mailer boxes is expected to only continue to grow.

Conventional Shipping Methods Are Comprised of Wasteful Packaging

Another environmental downside of conventional shipping packaging is that the cardboard boxes are often accompanied by extraneous and wasteful materials. These include plastic packing tape, styrofoam peanuts, and bubble wrap.

While these materials are effective in sealing packages and cushioning products inside boxes, none of them can be recycled. Plastic packing tape and bubble wrap often get snagged in recycling machines (much like the aforementioned case of brittle cardboard), so they are sent directly to landfills. Styrofoam peanuts are not recycled because they are very costly to process, thus facilities have no economic incentive to recycle them.

What Can You Do If You Can't Recycle Your Cardboard Box?

If you are looking for other ways to ensure your boxes are not affected by the limits of recycling, here are a couple of things you can do instead:

  • Offer your boxes for free to those who may need them, such as local libraries, community centers, food banks, churches, or other nonprofits
  • Repurpose them as gift boxes, liners for pet crates, or storage boxes for any knick-knacks or unwanted clutter around the house

What booni doon Is Doing To Combat Cardboard Mailer Waste?

At booni doon, we try our very best to be as sustainable as possible. Guided by the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, we actively seek out sustainable solutions and the least wasteful alternatives for all of our business decisions. Because of this, we are proudly fulfilling all U.S. orders using Boox - reusable boxes that are four times more durable than normal cardboard mailers. Boox can be reused multiple times, resulting in an estimated 75% less waste compared to single-use mailers. They also come with a velcro seal, eliminating the need for non-recyclable plastic tape.

To mail your Boox back, simply take out our cornstarch peanuts (which are dissolvable in water) and find the prepaid mailing slip at the bottom of the Boox. Scan the QR code on the top inside flap of your box to find instructions on how to properly fold your Boox so it can fit in any United States Postal Service mail drop-off location. Once received, the Boox is then be thoroughly sanitized and is set off to be used for another booni doon order!