Garbage Vs. Recycled: What Happens to Paper & Cardboard?


Moving is quite the packing effort. We’ve all been there before: when you finally finishing unpacking and the cardboard boxes and papers are laying around your new home in a messy heap. In this situation, or any other where you’re faced with a large amount of paper and cardboard waste, the question becomes what to do with it all. You could just quickly throw it in the trash or you could take the time to recycle it. Of course, the environmentally friendly choice is to recycle it properly but you’re tired, overwhelmed and know the garbage is the easier option. So, which do you choose?

America uses a lot of paper and cardboard on a daily basis. Besides moving efforts, think of all the reports, shipments and print materials generated on a daily basis. The average American uses an impressive 650 pounds of paper per year. Of that 650 pounds, only about 50% of it is recycled. Some may think that’s an impressive number, but is it really when you know the difference between the fates of trashed versus recycled paper and cardboard? Let’s take a look at what happens.


When you throw out that paper report or cardboard box, where does it end up? Well, 55% of all waste in America goes to landfills while another 12.5% is burnt in incinerators. While you might think that paper and cardboard hardly add to landfill considering how small they can be consider this: The University of Southern Indiana found that one third of landfill waste is packaging material (AKA: paper and cardboard)! Another study found that Americans throw out enough office paper per year to build a 12-foot high wall from Seattle to New York! When you throw out paper or cardboard waste, you are contributing to the pollution of our planet and growth of our landfills.


Recycled paper and cardboard, however, does not sit in a landfill or burn in an incinerator but is reused to create something new. Tissue paper, toilet paper, cereal boxes and newspapers can all be constructed by using recycled paper and cardboard. When you choose to recycle paper and cardboard you are choosing to repurpose materials, improve the health of the planet and save money. On average, it coasts $30 per ton to recycle, $50 per ton to send to a landfill and $75 per ton to incinerate it.

The benefits of choosing to recycle are endless. Although sometimes recycling can take a little extra effort, we think the effort is worth it once you see how materials like paper and cardboard can be reused. If you need more information on recycling or what other materials can be recycled, please visit our comprehensive recycling page.

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