Paper and cardboard are the most prevalent waste materials in the United States, accounting for about 23.1% of all municipal solid waste. Paper waste consists of packaging, containers, and disposable goods such as office papers, newspapers, tissue paper, and paper plates and cups.
Fortunately, not all waste has to end up in landfills! Many materials, including paper and cardboard, can be reclaimed and reused.
Are paper and cardboard recyclable?
Paper and cardboard are highly recyclable materials that are accepted by recycling services in most communities. The EPA estimated that 68.2% of paper was recycled in 2018. Most types of paper can be recycled. However, paper that is wet, greasy, or food-stained can not be recycled. Neither can most types of waxed and coated paper, as the coatings are typically made with plastic. Some coating types, including vegetable-based waxes and water-based barrier linings, are recyclable.
Here’s a quick overview of which common types of paper and cardboard are recyclable or non-recyclable. Keep in mind that every recycling program accepts different materials. You should always defer to your local recycling provider or drop-off location for guidance.
Recyclable paper and cardboard
Non-recyclable paper and cardboard
What is the difference between paper and cardboard?
Paper is a material made from wood pulp or similar fibrous material, typically in the form of thin sheets used for numerous purposes including writing, printing, and wrapping. Cardboard refers to a variety of paper-based materials often used for packaging and shipping. In other words, cardboard is made from paper.
The two main forms of cardboard are corrugated and paperboard. Corrugated cardboard consists of a wavy layer of paper, known as fluting, pressed between two flat sheets of paper. Most shipping boxes are made from corrugated cardboard. Paperboard, also known as chipboard, is a sturdy, single-layer paper stock. Product packaging such as cereal boxes, tissue boxes, and cartons are made from paperboard.
Most recycling programs accept both paper and cardboard, and the process for recycling these materials is very similar.
How to recycle paper and cardboard
Check which paper products can be recycled in your community
Approximately 91% of US residents have access to recycling programs, according to a study by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Those programs include a mix of curbside and drop-off services provided by either municipalities or private subscriptions. The specifics of each program vary depending on the community and the service provider. It’s important to check with your local government, curbside service provider, or drop-off location to see which materials they accept. Earth911 and RecycleNation both offer search tools to help you find recycling programs near you.
Remove any attached plastic, such as tape or windows
Some paper products, such as envelopes and pasta boxes, have a clear plastic window so you can see what’s inside. Be sure to remove those before recycling. The same goes for tape, including packing tape used to seal shipping boxes closed. Most tape is made with plastic. Paper tape, however, is recyclable and does not need to be removed from cardboard or paper.
Keep recyclable paper and cardboard clean and dry
Wet paper and cardboard can not be recycled. Consider keeping your paper recyclables in a separate bin. If you only use a single recycling bin, avoid placing wet and soiled items near your paper recyclables. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry any recyclable containers. Bring your recycling out on the same day it will be picked up to avoid getting it wet from rain or snow.
Separate clean and dry paper from wet and soiled sections
If only part of the paper or cardboard is wet or soiled, you can still salvage the clean and dry parts for recycling. This is common with food items, such as pizza boxes, where oils and grease from the food have stained the bottom but left the lid and sides relatively clean. While the grease-stained parts of the box are not recyclable, you can still cut or tear away the unsoiled cardboard to recycle. Another example is shipping boxes that sat on a wet surface. If only the bottom is wet, you can throw it away and recycle the rest of the box.
Are Meliora Cleaning Products recyclable?
Yes! All of our product packaging and shipping materials are designed to be reusable or recyclable. By making concentrated powders, solid soap bars, and refill tablets, we are able to use primarily paper packaging without the need for unnecessary plastic, like single-use plastic bottles, hidden liners, or PVA pods and sheets.
How to recycle paper-and-steel canisters
Our Laundry Powder, Oxygen Brightener, and Gentle Home Cleaning Scrub are all packaged in paper-and-steel canisters. The uncoated paper can, paper label, and steel ends are all recyclable. Steel is typically sorted using magnets and then heated, so any paper that is attached to it will be burned in the furnace rather than recycled. To ensure that everything gets sorted and recycled properly, we recommend carefully separating the steel from the paper using scissors, a boxcutter, or a utility knife.
How to recycle paper refill bags
Our Laundry Powder Refills and Oxygen Brightener Refills come in kraft paper bags. These bags are coated with a recyclable natural lining. Simply remove the tin tie closure from the top of the bag and place the bag and the tie in the bin.
Even better, our refill bags let you keep and reuse your Laundry Powder and Oxygen Brightener containers!
How to recycle paperboard boxes
Our Soap Stick, Dish Soap, All-Purpose Home Cleaner Refill Tablets, Foaming Hand Soap Refill Tablets, and Bath & Body Soap Bars are all packaged in uncoated paperboard boxes. To recycle them, simply flatten the boxes and place them in the bin.
If you have a compost pile at home or use a composting service, you can compost these boxes instead of recycling them. Just be sure to tear the boxes into smaller pieces and retain a mix of brown and green waste in your compost pile.
How to recycle glass spray bottles
Our All-Purpose Home Cleaner is available with a reusable glass bottle with a plastic sprayer. The glass bottle can be easily recycled by unscrewing the sprayer attachment.
However, the bottles are designed to be refilled and reused with refill tablets, so you don’t have to recycle the bottle (or throw away the sprayer)!
How to recycle shipping materials
All our products are shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes sealed with paper tape. We use kraft paper as padding inside the box. The boxes, paper padding, and tape are all recyclable. All you need to do is flatten the cardboard and place everything in the bin.