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How Cardboard is Recycled?

Cardboard is the most valuable type of paper because of its sturdiness and strong tissue fibres. This also explains why it has the greatest percentage of reuse for paper goods. Cardboard, also known as corrugated cardboard, is an easy to recycle material that is repurposed by both big and small companies to save money on trash disposal expenses. Cardboard recycling is the treatment and repurposing of old, abandoned, or waste heavy sheets or rigid layered papers.

Cardboard boxes are often made of heavy-duty or thick sheets of paper that are noted for their toughness and sturdiness. Packaging boxes, egg cartons, shoe boxes, and cereal boxes are all forms of cardboard. But how cardboard is recycled and how is the process to it?

Cardboard Recycling Process

Cardboard recycling involves the following steps:

Collection and Preparation Phase

This is the initial phase where the cardboard intended for recycling is collected from different points and is accumulated before delivering it further down to recycling facilities or paper mills. The cardboards thus collected do not include wet cardboards because their weight is more and also their fibre composition changes before recycling. 

They are sorted for discarding any material which may hinder the process of recycling, such as oil spills, food-soiled cardboard, etc. are not considered good and hence are removed from the pile. Also, it is sorted based on the number of layers it has. Further down, in the facility, these cardboard wastes are further prepared for the process. Any material such as tape, plastics, foils, stickers, etc. is removed from it. These cardboards are flattened to save space. 

Shredding Phase

In this phase of the recycling process, all the sorted cardboard that is piled and flattened is shredded into smaller pieces that enable it to work with, in further process. Shredding helps to make the process more convenient.

Pulping Phase

The shredded cardboard pieces are then added into a specified container and mixed with water. This further let the cardboard pieces break down and make them softer. At this phase, the pulp obtained can be moulded into new products.

Filtering Phase

The pulp obtained may be subjected to further filtration to remove any other material other than the cardboard shreds. Specific machinery is used to separate different materials such as plastic, metals, etc. This phase ensures a pure cardboard pulp that is perfect for making new cardboards. 

Processing Phase

After this phase, the pulp is again treated with more water and this new mixture is stirred and processed into the right consistency. 

In this phase, chemicals are added to the blend to provide it with desired properties such as water resistance, colours, and gloss.

Drying Phase

By using vacuum rollers, vibration techniques, and steam treatments the mixture obtained after the processing phase is removed off any moisture. The mixture before this phase mostly has 90% water content and every bit has to be removed for it to be worked with. 

After removing water from the mixture the dried content is pressed into sheets and finally, this stage has them resembling something like paper. The treatment also allows adding layers over layers to obtain the desired thickness.

Conversion Phase

The technique produces massive spools of brown paper totalling many tons. This paper will now be cut into smaller and stacked to create it denser. The sheets for the middle parts of cardboard are put via rollers with tooth instead of flat surfaces, giving it the creased, grooved form that will be there to give extra reinforcement to the type of boards, something which we would need for the packaging.

This concludes the stages of recycling cardboard and they can now be used again for different purposes.

Sorting, shredding, pulverizing, filtration, dryness, compressing, and rolling are the basic procedures in recycling. The need to recycle cardboard was imminent as the production of one tonne of cardboard necessitates the use of three tonnes of trees, and that is a lot! 

Moreover, half of the cardboard recovered is utilized to produce fresh boxes, while the rest is downcycled to paper pulp used for paperboard or chipboards. Cardboard recycling has opened new avenues as one does not rely on freshly cut trees anymore and also you can contribute to the environment.