Cardboard is one of the most commonly used packaging materials (and for a good reason). It is sturdy, can support heavier loads, and it is also recyclable. As more and more companies take strides towards reducing their carbon footprint, cardboard offers a unique opportunity in offsetting harmful emissions.
The Cardboard Lifecycle
A carbon footprint refers to the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from an individual or company's actions. These actions include anything from manufacturing materials to the transportation of products all the way to the disposal of both products and packaging materials by end-users.
In the case of cardboard, we will be looking at the carbon footprint of packaging and how using cardboard in the packaging process has the potential to reduce a company’s carbon footprint. To better understand the benefits of cardboard in reducing a company’s carbon footprint, it is worth breaking down the lifecycle of cardboard from cradle to grave.
Step 1: To begin trees are cut down, stripped of bark, and turned into wood chips. From there the wood chips are reduced further to create fibers. These fibers are then mixed with water to create a slurry.
Step 2: Once the slurry is created it can be pressed and rolled into sheets. These sheets are then used to create cardboard materials like boxes and liners.
Step 3: The cardboard boxes are then used to package products which are sent out to end-users. End-users can start the recycling process simply by placing it into a recycling bin or taking it to the proper recycling location. (This will depend on local recycling plant capabilities).
Step 4: The recycling process involves re-pulping the cardboard fibers using chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, sodium silicate, and sodium hydroxide. Once the fibers have been repulped they are cleaned, washed, and pressed into new rolls.
Step 5: The new rolls of cardboard can now be used to create more cardboard products and the cycle continues.
The cardboard recycling process creates a quasi closed-loop cycle that allows for the optimization of natural resources. This means that the cardboard can be turned into a new product without having to harvest as many natural resources.
What makes cardboard so beneficial for the environment is that it can be recycled 5-7 times before the fibers become too short to use. Less trees need to be cut down to make more cardboard since it can be recycled up to 7 times before it is rendered useless.
Using recycled cardboard reduces the amount of trees cut down. In fact, for each ton of recycled cardboard used, you save 17 trees. Whereas, incinerating that same ton of cardboard would emit 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Since trees and plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide, the more a company uses recycled cardboard in their packaging process, the more they can offset their carbon footprint and positively impact the environment.
More Cardboard, Less Carbon
For companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint, cardboard packaging materials are a great solution. Not only is cardboard sturdy enough for heavy objects, it is also made from recycled materials. Cardboard is environmentally friendly and the recycling process significantly reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.
In addition to cardboard’s recyclability, less trees need to be cut down to create this material. Since trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide the more trees you, as a company, are able to save, the smaller your carbon footprint will be.
Implement more recycled cardboard in your packaging process to offset carbon emissions and minimize your carbon footprint.