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Recycling Cardboard Boxes in the UK

1 Comment    |    ,     |    Reading time 5 minutes
Various types of cardboard boxes being sorted into recycling bins

Cardboard boxes are a common sight in homes and offices across the UK. Whether they're from a recent online shopping spree or a house move, these boxes can pile up quickly. But did you know that these seemingly mundane items can be recycled and reused in a variety of ways? In this guide, we'll delve into the process of recycling cardboard boxes in the UK, the benefits it brings to the environment, and how you can get involved.

Table of Contents

Understanding Cardboard Recycling

Before we dive into the 'how', it's important to understand what recycling cardboard entails. Cardboard recycling involves the reprocessing and reuse of thick sheets or stiff multilayered papers that have been used. The process helps reduce waste in the environment, conserves natural resources, and saves energy.

Cardboard is made from cellulose fibres, which are created from tree pulp. When you recycle cardboard, you help reduce the need to cut down more trees to make new cardboard. This not only helps conserve our forests but also reduces the energy and water used in the production process.

Cardboard boxes of varying sizes
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The Different Types of Cardboard

Not all cardboard is created equal. There are two main types of cardboard: corrugated cardboard and paperboard. Corrugated cardboard is thicker and used for packaging, while paperboard is thinner and used for things like cereal boxes and shoe boxes.

Both types of cardboard can be recycled, but they need to be sorted correctly. Corrugated cardboard is typically recycled into new cardboard, while paperboard can be recycled into new paper products or composted.

How to Recycle Cardboard Boxes in the UK

Now that we understand what cardboard recycling is and why it's important, let's get into the 'how'. Recycling cardboard boxes in the UK is a straightforward process that anyone can participate in.

The first step is to flatten your cardboard boxes. This makes them easier to transport and process. Next, you need to remove any non-cardboard materials such as plastic wrap, polystyrene, and staples. These materials can contaminate the recycling process and should be disposed of separately.

Using Your Local Recycling Collection Service

Most local councils in the UK offer a recycling collection service for households. You can put your flattened and cleaned cardboard boxes in your recycling bin for collection. Check with your local council to find out when your recycling is collected and what types of cardboard they accept.

If your local council doesn't offer a recycling collection service, or if you have a large amount of cardboard to recycle, you can take it to a recycling centre. Most recycling centres accept cardboard, but it's a good idea to check their website or give them a call to confirm before you go.

Reusing Cardboard Boxes

Another way to recycle cardboard boxes is to reuse them. This can be a fun and creative way to reduce waste. You can use cardboard boxes for storage, for craft projects, or even for gardening. If you're moving house, you can use your old cardboard boxes to pack your belongings.

If you have no use for your old cardboard boxes, consider giving them to someone who does. You can offer them to friends or family, or donate them to a local charity or community group. There are also online platforms where you can give away or sell used cardboard boxes.

The Environmental Impact of Cardboard Recycling

Recycling cardboard boxes has a significant positive impact on the environment. It helps conserve natural resources, reduces waste, and saves energy. It also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as the production of new cardboard releases carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.

By recycling cardboard, you're not just helping the environment. You're also contributing to the economy. The recycling industry in the UK is a major employer and contributes significantly to the country's GDP. So by recycling your cardboard boxes, you're helping to create jobs and boost the economy.

Reducing Waste

One of the main benefits of recycling cardboard boxes is that it reduces waste. In the UK, we produce a staggering amount of waste each year, much of which ends up in landfill. By recycling cardboard, we can reduce the amount of waste we produce and help conserve landfill space.

Recycling cardboard also reduces the need to produce new cardboard. This saves resources and energy, as the production of new cardboard requires the cutting down of trees, the use of water, and the burning of fossil fuels.

Conserving Natural Resources

Cardboard is made from tree pulp, so by recycling cardboard, we can help conserve our forests. Trees are a vital part of our ecosystem, providing habitat for wildlife, improving air quality, and helping to combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide.

By recycling cardboard, we can reduce the demand for new cardboard and help conserve our forests. This is especially important in the UK, where woodland covers just 13% of the land area, compared to an EU average of 38%.


Recycling cardboard boxes in the UK is a simple and effective way to help the environment and conserve natural resources. Whether you choose to recycle your cardboard boxes through your local council, at a recycling centre, or by reusing them, you're making a positive impact.

So next time you have a pile of cardboard boxes, think twice before throwing them away. With a little effort, you can turn your waste into a resource and help make the UK a greener place.

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This article was written by...

Nathan Calvert

Nathan is Head of Digital at The Packaging Club. He has worked in the packaging sector for over 15 years across food, consumer electronics, FMCG ecommerce and more, both directly in-house or as a freelance consultant.

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One comment on “Recycling Cardboard Boxes in the UK”

  1. Recycling cardboard boxes is a small yet impactful step toward a greener future. In the UK, it's heartening to see a growing emphasis on sustainable practices. Proper cardboard recycling not only conserves resources but also reduces environmental impact. Let's continue to raise awareness and make recycling a daily habit for a healthier planet!

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