Cardboard is one of the most frequently used materials in the modern world and has been for over a century. In the commercial world, most retail and wholesale items have some kind of cardboard packaging. Before, we discuss the facts regarding waste and recycling, let’s learn a few facts about the history of cardboard and how it has become one of the most abundant materials in the world today.

  • The earliest form of cardboard can be traced back to 17th century China. The population were using thick paper as a packaging material.
  • Cardboard didn’t reach Europe until the 19th
  • The first mention of the term “cardboard” was first used in the novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”, written by Anne Bronte in 1848.
  • By the end of the 19th century, the popularity of cardboard grew rapidly after it was soon realised that the material could be formed into various shapes and hold a fair amount of weight.
  • Today, the cardboard industry remains strong and in the United Kingdom alone, the industry is worth around £4 billion and employs around 27,000 people.

The following facts should help you understand just how abundant cardboard is, the issues with the amount of waste it produces and the benefits of recycling it.

  • Around 80% off all products sold in United States and the EU are packaged in cardboard.
  • This totals around 400 billion square feet of cardboard!
  • In the United Kingdom, approximately 5 billion corrugated boxes are used per year, amounting to around 83 per person.
  • In the United States, this number is around 100 billion!
  • Cardboard and paper make up around 41% of solid waste streams.
  • An average household can throw away as much as 13,000 separate pieces of cardboard every year. Most of this is packaging on foods and retail items.
  • Incredibly the amount of cardboard thrown away annually is enough to heat 50 million houses for the next two decades.
  • In the United States, 850 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are thrown away annually.
  • This equates to around 1 billion trees, a terrifyingly high number.
  • To put this into further perspective, the average American uses around seven trees per year in paper and cardboard.

These frightening statistics indicate the immense need for recycling and that is exactly what everyone needs to partake in. However, the following statistics demonstrate exactly how much difference we can collectively make if we recycled all of our cardboard.

  • Recycling cardboard only takes 75% of the energy need to make new cardboard.
  • Recycling cardboard produces 50% less sulphur dioxide than making cardboard from raw materials.
  • In the United Kingdom, cardboard has the highest recycling rate of any packaging in the world. Around 2 million tonnes of waste are being saved from landfill every year, just through the practice of recycling cardboard
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes are made from 75% recycled material and can be transformed from recycled material to finished product in as little as 14 days.
  • Advancements in technology and design have meant that packaging companies are using material that is around 20% lighter than it was a decade ago. This helps reduce waste whilst still offering the same structural stability.
  • In 1993, a program known as the US Paper Recovery saved more than 90,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space by recovering paper and cardboard that had been thrown away by consumers.
  • Recycling just one tonne of cardboard will save 46 gallons of oil, 4000kW of electricity, 6.6 million Btu’s of energy, 9 cubic yards of landfill space, 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water. These incredible statistics demonstrate the power of recycling and how, if every citizen does their part, we can save a lot of natural resources.

So there you have it. While it is hard to look at the damning statistics regarding the amount of cardboard that is wasted each year, the recycling statistics also show that something can be done.

As the world gradually begins to lose its natural resources, technological advancements should be able keep production going. However, this eventuality needs to be delayed as much as possible.

Therefore it is vital that recycling is a key part of everyone’s habits. Just think on a daily basis how much cardboard you interact with. Buying a pair of shoes from your local store, opening your lunch, sending a parcel, moving house. If we realise that all of the waste from these actions can be recycled, it could have a lasting impact on our planet, in the most positive way possible.

Find out how you can reduce your waste and start recycling by investing in a cardboard baler.