Online Shopping Is Up, Cardboard Recycling Is Down

According to a recent article in USA Today, online shopping sales have climbed steadily the past five years. The surge in shipping has led to an increase in cardboard consumption as well.

This past year, however, recycling rates for cardboard fell by 300,000 tons. Why are the recycling rates dropping? It turns out that residents may not be as good at recycling cardboard as retail stores.

One of the issues is that only about 60 percent of residents have curbside recycling services to begin with. The other 40 percent either don’t have access to curbside services or choose not to have them.

Those who do have curbside recycling don’t always take the time to break down their cardboard properly for recycling. Another problem is that cardboard can become contaminated by something such as a forgotten slice of pizza in a pizza box. Now that China is accepting non-contaminated recyclables only, a bale of contaminated cardboard may end up in the landfill instead of a recycling facility.

Overall, industry experts estimate that residents recycle only 25 percent of their cardboard. If more boxes aren’t recycled, more trees will need to be cut down to make new ones.

So what can you do? Try to limit how much packaging you end up with in the first place. Reducing your use of materials is the most powerful step you can take. Then, whenever you do buy something with packaging, take the time to recycle everything you can, and recycle right.

Read more from USA Today, or learn more about what to do with cardboard here.