Recycle Sign For Corrugated Boxes

Looking for the recycle sign for corrugated boxes?

Some background about the corrugated box

You have probably seen a corrugated box (see diagram below) around before, since these boxes are very commonly used in packaging e.g. for large electronic products, food cartons etc. Corrugated boxes are usually brown and made of layers of paper about 0.01 inches (0.25 mm) thick. The reason why it is known as “corrugated” is because there is a layer of fluted corrugated paper (i.e. fluting or medium) found in between two flat paper sheets (i.e. liner). This ingenious design allows flimsy pieces of paper to turn into rigid, yet cushioning, boards that can be used in packaging. Corrugated Box 1

Corrugated Box 2

Why the need for the corrugated recycle sign

You might not be aware, not all corrugated boxes can be readily recycled. Those that have been coated or treated with substances like wax that are not repulpable or are of limited repulpability are less readily recycled.

Hence, the recycling symbol on corrugated boxes actually indicates that the particular boxes can be readily recycled (and subsequently should be recycled). Note however, that the corrugated recycle sign does not mean that the corrugated box had been made from recycled materials.

The corrugated recycling logo (see diagram below) comprises an opened black box with an encircling arrow. At times, the recycle sign comes with the words “Corrugated Recycles” and the website address of the Corrugated Packaging Alliance, so that consumers might find out more about corrugated if they wish.

Insert diagram of corrugated recycle sign

At times, the corrugated box might be treated for moisture protection using alternatives to wax that still allows the corrugated to be repulped during the recycling process. For such boxes, the following two corrugated recycle signs might be used. The recycle signs indicate that the corrugated boxes can be recycled, despite the treatment.

Insert diagram of treated corrugated recycle sign

Read about other recycling logos:

Corrugated recycling

According to the Corrugated Packaging Alliance, corrugated is the most recycled packaging material, given the recovery rate of more than 78%. In 2008, more than 80% of all corrugated were recovered for recycling.

One possible reason for the high recycling rate of corrugated boxes is that recyclers are paid for the sale of the old corrugated containers (OCC) back to the corrugated industry. This means that if you recycle your old corrugated boxes, you get to earn a bit! Find out more about making money from recycling.

Once collected, the OCC collected are used in the process of making new corrugated boxes. According to the Corrugated Packaging Alliance, 60.2% of recovered corrugated is used to make new containerboard, while corrugated boxes consist of about 43% recycled fibre on the average. Read about other recycling statistics.

Tips for recycling your corrugated boxes

Remove any contaminants like tape, Styrofoam or plastic wrapping from your corrugated box. Dealers pay higher prices for corrugated boxes that are clean.

Note that corrugated boxes contaminated with toxic or hazardous materials, or food and other organic waste, are not suitable for recycling.

Corrugated boxes treated with plastic extrusions, laminate or wax cannot be recycled unless the boxes bear the corrugated recycle signs seen above.

If you are unsure where to send your unwanted corrugated box to, you can actually do a quick search using Earth911’s website.

How corrugated boxes are recycled.

In case you are wondering what happens to your corrugated boxes after they are sent for recycling, here’s some information about the corrugated recycling process.

  • If the corrugated boxes were collected under a mixed recyclables system, the OCC would have to be sorted from the other recyclables.

  • The OCC that are in recyclable conditions are then compacted and baled, to allow for greater efficiency in storage and handling.

  • The baled OCC are then transported to the paper mill, where the OCC is fed into a repulper filled with water. The repulper resembles a giant blender that helps to reduce the OCC into a slurry of fiber and water. The recycling of normal paper also involves this pulping process.

  • Impurities like tape, plastic, metal strips, strings, etc are removed through hanging a rope or ragger chain down into the tub of swirling slurry. The impurities will wrap around the ragger or rope and be pulled out of the repulper.

  • The rest of the slurry then passes through several tanks that allow more contaminants be removed. The contaminants may float above (and be sieved away) or sink to the bottom of the tanks and be readily removed.

  • The cleaned up pulp slurry is poured onto a moving screen that allows water to drain away, while a layer of fibre forms on the screen. The fibre layer is then pressed using rollers, which removes more water.

  • When the fibre layers passes through the dryer, the heat from the drying cylinders further removes moisture from the fibre layers. The dried fibre layer is paper. The paper is rolled up using a large reel spool, and is ready for shipping to corrugated box manufacturers.

  • To produce the fluting or medium layer of corrugated paper, the recycled paper needs to be softened with steam from a machine known as the “single-facer”. This paper layer is then passed through two metal rollers with jagged edges that help create the fluting ridges in the paper.

  • Starch adhesive is then used to stick the fluting to the liners to form a corrugated board.

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