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Why Cardboard Recycling is Important: Separating Fact from Fiction

You probably know that recycling cardboard is the right thing to do for the environment, but you may not know why. Closetbox deals with an unbelievable amount of cardboard, and as part of our smart storage tips and moving box resources, we wanted to give you the details about why cardboard recycling is worth doing. Whether you want to save the planet, get rid of boxes efficiently after a whole house move, or just sound a little smarter at your next dinner party, we have you covered.  

Seeing the Forest from the Trees

It’s easy to say that recycling paper saves trees, and leave it at that. You can even cite neat statistics such as “Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees….” But this is an incomplete picture at best. It’s true that replanting programs largely replace trees that are cut down for their wood pulp. Instead, the problem occurs when “old wood” forests are cut down wholesale and replaced with young trees that are not yet capable of storing large amounts of carbon. 

As this Q&A from Green America explains, it’s not so much the number of trees, but the type, size, and location of forests, as well as the overall demand, supply, and consumption of wood products. (This is also why we tell people who use storage as part of an eco-friendly home remodel to think about bamboo over hardwood flooring.) Nevertheless, determining the overall environmental impact of the various replace-and-replant practices that go into paper production isn’t easy, to say the least.

Other Environmental Impacts

The thing is, saving trees isn’t the only reason to recycle paper and cardboard. Even if you put aside the impact to the planet’s forests, it’s still the case that virgin wood pulp takes more water and energy to produce. Here’s the rest of that quote from ThoughtCo., “Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space and 4,000 kilowatts of energy-enough to power the average U.S. home for six months-and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent (MTCE).”

Moreover, this water and energy conservation is true for many types of recycling—including the most important material of all—aluminum. Smelting aluminum ore is an incredibly energy-intensive process, while recycled aluminum uses 95 percent less energy.

Making Use of What You Got: Local Recycling Infrastructure

In this piece about the hodge-podge collection of local recycling programs, The Economist points out that recycling programs take significant investments in infrastructure and that these facilities can’t always adapt to changes in consumer behavior. “Most recycling facilities were built in the 1990s, and the machinery is often ill-equipped to handle changes in the country’s waste stream, such as the decline in paper (newsprint has fallen by half since a 2000 peak) and the swift rise in plastics.”

Here’s another critical point on which we can separate fact from fiction: It’s easy to think that as people use less and less paper in the digital age that the benefit of paper recycling itself declines. In fact, the opposite may be true, as local paper recycling capacity is increasingly underused. In this way, the growth in the use of cardboard boxes is itself part of the problem and part of the solution when it comes to sustainability and responsible recycling. Often, the key is using best practices when recycling cardboard boxes.

Efficiency and Sustainability at Closetbox

Closetbox works to bring greater efficiency and sustainability to our business and the industry as a whole. One of the crucial parts of our full-service storage is our digital inventory and online tracking. On the one hand, this means our customers can enjoy the convenience that comes with being able to view an itemized account of their storage contents and take advantage of our on-demand return delivery for some, or all, of their items.

Yet, it also makes it a lot easier and more reliable for us to handle multiple storage orders in the same trip. This, in turn, saves us transportation costs, which we can pass on to the consumer, as well as carbon emissions which we can pass on to the environment and future generations. We’re not saying that by using Closetbox storage you can save the world. What we are saying is that if you need storage anyway, you can get a hassle-free solution that’s also environmentally conscious.