Is cardboard biodegradable?

This blog post will answer the question, “Is cardboard biodegradable” and cover topics like the biodegradability of cardboard and frequently asked questions related to the topic.

Is cardboard biodegradable?

Yes, cardboard is biodegradable. Within a maximum of one year, corrugated cardboard fully disintegrates. As it consists mostly of cellulose, its breakdown period is short.

What is Cardboard consist of?

Approximately 60 percent of today’s cardboard is created from recycled content. It is less expensive to recycle cardboard and paper than to plant new trees, which is clearly excellent news.

In addition to using less energy and significantly fewer chemicals, cardboard recycling operations also produce less waste.

The production process begins with the shredding of old newspapers and periodicals. The resulting slurry is then thrown over a moving screen after being combined with water and chemicals.

The screen separates the smaller paper bits from the bigger ones, and the smaller pieces are gathered and reformed into a new sheet.

This fresh sheet is then dried & pressed to eliminate any residual moisture. After the sheet has dried, it may be sliced and shaped into the cardboard.

What kind of material is cardboard—biodegradable or not?

Cardboard is often a highly biodegradable material. Cardboard is composed of wood pulp, which is completely biodegradable.

Nevertheless, not all cardboard is the same. Some cardboard, such as that used for beverage cartons, is waterproofed with a coating of plastic or waxy substance.

This also applies to single-use coffee mugs. On the exterior, they feel like cardboard, but on the inside, there is a layer of slick plastic. 

It is quite hard to remove this layer, that is why they are so tough to recycle and why you should always use a reusable coffee cup filled with delicious organic coffee!

In other instances, cardboard may be polluted with chemicals such as grease and oil making it harder to biodegrade.

In order for cardboard to biodegrade completely, it must be free of any non-natural pollutants. It must be devoid of the other components that sometimes accompany cardboard, such as tape, paint, glitter, polystyrene, and plastic coatings.

Why does cardboard biodegrade?

Due to its composition of natural substances, cardboard is biodegradable. Paper is composed of cellulose, a natural material that may be decomposed by microbes and bacteria.

When cardboard is disposed of in a landfill, the paper will gradually disintegrate.

However, there is terrible news. The decomposition of cellulose generates methane, a strong greenhouse gas that is more dangerous than carbon dioxide.

Therefore, it is crucial to recycle cardboard wherever feasible, since doing so limits the emission of methane gas into the environment.

Does Cardboard Naturally Decompose?

Naturally, cardboard decomposes, although the process might be sluggish. Over time, natural microbes will completely decompose and restore cardboard fibers to the soil.

How Long Does Cardboard Take to Decompose?

Several elements lead to the demise of a cardboard box. We must first evaluate environmental parameters such as humidity, temperature, and microbes. 

They are constantly there, although their distribution varies by region. Some locations are more susceptible to heat than others, for instance.

Additionally, we must take into account the components added to the cardboard. Wax, which is resistant to moisture, may be used by manufacturers to line cardboard boxes used to package milk, juice, and frozen items. 

This may cause the breakdown process to take up to five years to complete. It will ultimately occur but at a somewhat slower pace.

We might also assess the condition of the cardboard box. Repeatedly used boxes will undoubtedly disintegrate quicker than freshly manufactured ones. 

The longer something is used, the closer it gets to the end of life. Older cardboard boxes will normally disintegrate between two weeks to one month.

Now, cardboard boxes without extra materials will take between two weeks and two months to degrade completely. 

Naturally, you may make the procedure simpler by soaking the leaves in warm, foamy water and breaking them into little pieces prior to transporting them to your compost bin.

Is Cardboard Environmentally Harmful?

One of the materials with the smallest environmental footprint is cardboard. While it begins with deforestation, it concludes with good or neutral environmental benefits.

Obviously, like every other produced item, the creation of cardboard boxes requires energy. This is detrimental to the environment, although it is preferable to materials such as plastic.

It is almost difficult to escape the stage when it uses an excessive amount of fuel, but its disposal techniques are simple and ecologically benign.

Cardboard may be recycled, composted, or left to disintegrate naturally. However, there is a difficult aspect. When cardboard decomposes naturally, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas.

At modest levels, methane poses little threat. When it becomes excessive, however, it contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. As a result, it is preferable to avoid throwing away unneeded cardboard, as it will wind up in our landfills.

It will decay quickly but will have negative impacts on the atmosphere. Therefore, you should recycle or compost it in your backyard.

Can Cardboard Be Recycled?

Absolute affirmative! Cardboard and its derivatives are entirely recyclable. This implies that old cardboard boxes may be used to manufacture new items without the need to chop down further trees.

Recycling is an essential procedure for protecting the environment. First, recycling cardboard implies that less new cardboard is produced. Thus, you minimize the quantity of trash in the environment as well as the number of trees that are chopped down.

Additionally, because there is less manufacturing, there is less fuel consumption, which results in fewer greenhouse emissions entering the environment.

Cardboard recycling is easy. Simply flatten or fold the item to fit it in the recycling container. The remainder will be managed by municipal garbage management.

Recycling Advice

  • Keep the boxes dry and clean. Wet or stained cardboard is unsuitable for recycling. Allow it to dry before placing it in the recycle bin.
  • Remove any additional non-recyclable materials
  • Please disregard the damaged boxes. Moreover, they are recyclable.
  • Stickers or other labels on the boxes will be removed throughout the recycling process; thus, there is no need to remove them.
  • Separate cardboard from paper and other recyclable items. The cardboard recycling method is distinct from the others.
  • Even though plastic-lined cardboard is not biodegradable, it is 100 percent recyclable. Recycling plastic-lined cardboard is comparable to recycling natural cardboard.

Can Cardboard Be Composted?

Similar to biodegradation, cardboard may also be composted. As previously said, cardboard is composed of trees (organic materials) and water and air.

As organic matter, trees are readily decomposed by bacteria, fungus, and other microbes into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass. Cardboard is thus an excellent choice for composting.

Not all cardboard, however, is biodegradable. Those coated with plastic cannot degrade spontaneously since plastic is not biodegradable. Although the cardboard may degrade, the plastic lining stays intact.

You should recycle the non-compostable cardboard if it fits the recycling standards. Cardboard is easily compostable.

Follow these easy procedures if you desire to compost cardboard boxes.

  • Construct a 4-inch-tall compost pile with layers of shredded cardboard and carbon-rich items like as old hay, dead leaves, and straw.
  • Add another 4-inch layer of nitrogen-rich items such as animal dung, veggies, etc.
  • Repeat these methods until you have accumulated about 4 cubic feet of compost.
  • Next, add water to your pile to maintain its moisture content.
  • Continue stirring your compost every five days for six to eight months.
  • You may now use your finished compost in your backyard garden or flower bed.

In composting, the conditions for decomposition are greatly strengthened, particularly if the processes are rigorously adhered to.

Is Cardboard friendly to the environment?

The fact that certain cardboards are recyclable indicates that they are eco-friendly. Currently, there are a variety of technologies and procedures for managing the cardboard recycling process.

These have simplified the whole process of cardboard recycling. In addition, some quarters refer to cardboard as an environmentally friendly and sustainable material to illustrate its environmental friendliness.

These three categories are applicable to cardboard:

  • It can be recycled
  • It is eco-friendly
  • It is recyclable

Cardboard has several environmental advantages. Cardboard is 100 percent recyclable, regardless of whether it is used as paperboard or corrugated fiberboard. It does not result in any kind of waste.

Primarily, it is used in the packaging sector for manufacturing support pads, bags, & boxes. As the paper is non-recyclable and harmful to the environment, many people choose plastic.

Here are some of the cardboard’s environmental benefits:

  • Boxes made of cardboard may be used and re-used frequently by producers that do not want to increase waste or damage the environment.
  • You may apply numerous DIY approaches to guarantee their cardboard stays worthwhile and recyclable. It may be used to create imaginative and one-of-a-kind DIY projects, such as cardboard pet homes and children’s playhouses.
  • It is a natural substance whose sources consist of renewable resources.
  • In conjunction with other budget-friendly materials and better thermal insulation, it may lower yearly energy costs by more than 80 percent.
  • The characteristics of cardboard are similar to those of wood. It is also known as anisotropic material, which means it may be used directly without posing any health risks.

Is Cardboard Beneficial To Soil?

If you have cardboard boxes that have not been carefully treated, they are great for the soil! These boxes may be composted in a short amount of time. They decompose rapidly and are composed of plant-based components, making them ideal soil nutrient suppliers.

When you compost cardboard, you provide your soil and plants with better nutrients than those purchased from a shop.

As cardboard may be used as mulch, you spread cardboard on your soil here. It protects the soil from harsh temperatures, especially during the winter. In addition, it enriches your soil with nutrients.

When cardboard boxes are placed on soil, organic stuff may be placed on top. Microorganisms & worms in your soil will love devouring these boxes, and in the process, they will decompose them and produce more soil and soil food.

Additionally, mulching helps you manage weeds in your garden. Additionally, it will enhance the soil organically. Therefore, cardboard is beneficial to the soil.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs), “Is cardboard biodegradable?”

Is cardboard environmentally hazardous?

Corrugated is more eco-friendly than ever before, accepting non-toxic water-based inks and requiring no bleaching during processing. 

After being recycled, paper is used to produce chipboard, paperboard (i.e. cereal box packaging), paper towels, tissues, & printing and writing paper.

How long does it take for cardboard to decompose?

Between six and eight months

If you do nothing to your huge cardboard pieces, it may take between six and eight months for them to totally decompose. This is what occurs when a box is discarded in a landfill or outdoors and left to the elements to begin decomposing.

What happens when the cardboard is not recycled?

As cardboard is biodegradable, it generates methane (a greenhouse gas) during decomposition. 

If you do not recycle cardboard, it will wind up in a landfill and contribute to the emission of methane into the atmosphere. Consequently, it will use excessive space and also contribute to global warming.

References:

https://www.dssmith.com/tecnicarton/about/newsroom/2019/6/advantages-of-cardboard-for-the-environment#:~:text=2.,this%20degradation%20accelerates%20even%20more.
https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/is-cardboard-biodegradable.php

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