Are Cardboard boxes biodegradable? (5 benefits of composting cardboard boxes)

This article will cover the biodegradability aspect of cardboard boxes. Other covered topics would include: 

  • Can cardboard boxes degrade readily?
  • How do cardboard boxes help in the alleviation of the environmental waste problem?
  • Why do cardboard boxes degrade?
  • Can you compost cardboard boxes?
  • Can you recycle cardboard boxes?
  • What happens when cardboard boxes are disposed of incorrectly?
  • What is the correct way to dispose of cardboard boxes?
  • FAQs

Are Cardboard boxes biodegradable?

Cardboard boxes are made from natural materials (plant-based) and therefore, are regarded as readily biodegradable. 

The microbes are able to break down waste such as paper because natural materials have nutritional content that can be used as a food source by the microbes. 

One of the most eco-friendly options that you can explore is to compost cardboard boxes. Composting is the process of making compost from waste. This compost can be used as a natural fertiliser that can replace synthetic fertilisers. 

You can also recycle old cardboard boxes. Recycling can be explained as the reusing of cardboard boxes after processing and modifications.

Can cardboard boxes degrade readily?

The question is very much analogous to the biodegradability aspect of cardboard boxes. To probe into the answer to the question, it is important to know what materials are used to make cardboard boxes. 

It is unveiled that cardboard boxes are made mostly from recycled paper. Therefore, it can be assumed that the main content present in cardboard boxes is cellulose which is extracted from the trees.

Since cardboard boxes are made from natural materials (plant-based), it is very easy to conclude that cardboard boxes will degrade readily. The time taken may vary on external conditions such as sunlight, heat, aeration, et cetera. 

As a general rule, papers may degrade in 1-6 months. This time duration is very much insignificant as compared to non-biodegradable materials that may require years to degrade. 

Based on it, it can be stanced that yes, cardboard boxes can degrade readily and therefore, are regarded as readily biodegradable. 

Can you compost cardboard boxes? (5 benefits)

You have a lot of cardboard boxes available to you and you are wondering what is the best way to deal with them. You are also inclined to think that simply disposing of them in the trash cans is not a good idea. 

Congratulations. You are at the right place. This section will discuss one of the best ways to deal with used cardboard boxes if you are not in the league (and you should not be) of disposing of them. 

One of the most eco-friendly options that you can explore is to compost cardboard boxes. Composting is the process of making compost from waste. This compost can be used as a natural fertiliser that can replace synthetic fertilisers. 

However, be careful as not all cardboard boxes can be composted. Some such as waxed cardboard is better not composted as it will create complications. However, options such as corrugated cardboard boxes can be composted. 

Composting is a green alternative because it offers a number of benefits that include: 

  • Increased soil fertility 
  • Increased water retention profile
  • Increased organic content of the soil
  • Better yield
  • Decreased use of agrochemicals 

How to compost cardboard boxes? (7 steps)

Let us explore some steps to compost cardboard boxes:

  • Shred cardboard boxes into smaller pieces 
  • Add cardboard boxes to compostable waste 
  • Remember to use only clean cardboard for the composting purpose 
  • Select a place for open pile or compost bin 
  • Make green and brown layers. Green layers contains green materials like grass and brown layers is made up of carbon rich material such as food waste
  • Properly aerate and mix the alternate green and brown layers
  • Extract the compost and use it for good purposes 

Can you recycle old cardboard boxes?

Let us say that you are not really in the mood of composting cardboard boxes and want to explore other green options. Well, you are at the right place again. 

This section will cover another green strategy that you can use to deal with cardboard boxes while also ensuring that the environment is not damaged or harmed significantly.

You can also recycle old cardboard boxes. Recycling can be explained as the reusing of cardboard boxes after processing and modifications. 

Recycling offers the following advantages: 

  • Better waste management
  • Better resource management
  • Decreased pressure on raw materials
  • Decreased carbon footprint
  • Decreased energy consumption

When cardboard boxes are recycled, they are not required to be made from scratch. This saves energy and pressure on raw materials. 

The raw materials source of cardboard is paper. Therefore, by recycling cardboard boxes, you are ensuring that fewer trees are cut. 

This is important because we already face grave scenarios in the context of tree cutting. It is estimated that since the conception of human ways, the tree count has decreased by more than 50%. 

Trees are the essential entities that save us from environmental anomalies. Trees are regarded as the environment cleaner because they suck carbon dioxide and release oxygen. 

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is responsible for the causation of environmental anomalies such as global warming, deforestation, acid rain, and weather changes. 

How to?

You may recycle cardboard boxes by either dumping them in recycle bins or finding a nearby recycling centre and transporting them there. 

How to reuse & repurpose cardboard boxes?

While we discuss the biodegradability of cardboard boxes, let us also shed some light on some ways in which cardboard boxes can be reused. The options are: 

  • DIY projects
  • Make boxes into planters
  • Use as furniture sliders
  • Use to kill weeds naturally 
  • Use as storage containers
  • Reusing cardboard boxes for shipping purposes 
  • Decorate the room or garden with old boxes 

What happens when cardboard boxes are disposed of incorrectly?

We have discussed some of the green options through which we can dispose of cardboard boxes. Let us now explore what will happen if cardboard boxes are not disposed of in the way they should be. 

The worst-case scenario is that cardboard boxes will become a part of landfills. This will not have significant environmental impacts because cardboard boxes are made from recycled paper which will degrade readily. 

Also, cardboard boxes are not made from any harmful chemicals (in most cases), so, there is little to no chance of leaking or seeping of harmful chemicals that can contaminate the soil and groundwater. 

However, when cardboard boxes are not disposed of the way they should be, there will be increased pressure on the raw materials in cardboard boxes. This is because there will be no recycling or composting of cardboard boxes. 

This will lead to increased cutting of trees which will, in turn, have detrimental impacts such as global warming, the greenhouse effect, weather anomalies, melting of glaciers et cetera. 

What is the correct way to dispose of cardboard boxes?

The correct way to dispose of cardboard boxes is to either dump them in green or blue-coloured dustbins. There are three types of dustbins that are there. These include: 

  • Red-coloured
  • Blue-coloured
  • Green-coloured 

Blue-coloured dustbins are intended for biodegradable and compostable waste. Green-coloured dustbins are intended for mostly recyclable and non-biodegradable waste. Red-coloured dustbins are intended for hazardous waste. 

Since cardboard boxes can be composted and recycled, you can dispose of them in both blue and green-coloured dustbins. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that cardboard boxes are made from natural materials (plant-based) and therefore, are regarded as readily biodegradable. 

The microbes are able to break down waste such as paper because natural materials have nutritional content that can be used as a food source by the microbes. 

One of the most eco-friendly options that you can explore is to compost cardboard boxes. Composting is the process of making compost from waste. This compost can be used as a natural fertiliser that can replace synthetic fertilisers. 

You can also recycle old cardboard boxes. Recycling can be explained as the reusing of cardboard boxes after processing and modifications. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Are Cardboard boxes biodegradable?

Is cardboard cheaper than plastic?

Yes, cardboard is not only more eco-friendly but also cheaper than plastic.

What is cardboard made of?

Cardboard is made of fibres from trees and plants. It may also be made from recycled paper. 

References

  • Selin, E., Svensson, K., Gravenfors, E., Giovanoulis, G., Iida, M., Oskarsson, A., & Lundqvist, J. (2021). Food contact materials: an effect-based evaluation of the presence of hazardous chemicals in paper and cardboard packaging. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, 38(9), 1594-1607.
  • Araújo, A., Caro, C., Mendes, M. J., Nunes, D., Fortunato, E., Franco, R., … & Martins, R. (2014). Highly efficient nanoplasmonic SERS on cardboard packaging substrates. Nanotechnology, 25(41), 415202.
  • Pommier, S., Llamas, A. M., & Lefebvre, X. (2010). Analysis of the outcome of shredding pretreatment on the anaerobic biodegradability of paper and cardboard materials. Bioresource Technology, 101(2), 463-468.
  • Nabizadeh, R., Sorooshian, A., Delikhoon, M., Baghani, A. N., Golbaz, S., Aghaei, M., & Barkhordari, A. (2020). Characteristics and health effects of volatile organic compound emissions during paper and cardboard recycling. Sustainable cities and society, 56, 102005.
  • Francou, C., Linères, M., Derenne, S., Le Villio-Poitrenaud, M., & Houot, S. (2008). Influence of green waste, biowaste and paper–cardboard initial ratios on organic matter transformations during composting. Bioresource Technology, 99(18), 8926-8934

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment