Cardboard Recycling

Alongside aluminum, cardboard is one of the most readily recyclable materials because it is lightweight to transport, has a high value, and can be fully recycled. Actually, cardboard boxes are often directly reused or repurposed to create new cardboard boxes! Recycling cardboard is also most likely to offer your business rebates. 

The cardboard used for shipping boxes is referenced within the industry as “Old Corrugated Containers (OCC)” because it has three layers with an inner textured layer for strength and durability. In comparison to OCC, cardboard alone in a single layer (also called chipboard or paperboard) refers to thick paper stock like that used in cereal boxes, shoe boxes and other smaller packaging. 

OCC and paperboard / chipboard are separated for recycling. OCC can be directly reused and repurposed in its existing form, otherwise OCC is downcycled into paperboard / chipboard. OCC or corrugated cardboard has a very high recovery rate. It is estimated that more than half of the cardboard recycled is used to make new cardboard boxes. In 2018, the American Forest & Paper Association reported a 96% recovery rate for corrugated cardboard

The Cost of Cardboard

Cardboard is made out of paper, so the costs of the life cycle of cardboard are very similar. Reference Paper section above for details. However, cardboard has higher recycling rates than other paper products. 


Recycling cardboard produces less than 50% sulfur dioxide than making the card from raw materials. (Natural Energy Hub)

Recycling one ton of cardboard equates to saving 390 kWh of energy and 46 gallons of oil. (

Recycling one ton of cardboard saves 700 gallons of water. (


Cardboard is a highly recyclable material and rebates for recycling the valuable material can help offset waste management costs. Cardboard can continue to be repurposed over a long lifespan and businesses are incentivized to do so to save money. Overall, recycling and reusing cardboard is a great option.


Clean your pizza boxes out before recycling! If they contain food or are too greasy, they may no longer be able to be recycled.