All About Corrugated Cardboard
MATERIAL AND STRUCTURE
Corrugated cardboard is made up of multiple layers of kraft paper, glued together. The outer layers are called linerboard and the inner fluted section is called medium. The fluted layer creates air pockets that act as a cushion while the multiple layers make the structure tough and sturdy.
There are different flutes types: type A through type G with type A having the thickest, widest flutes, and type G having the narrowest and smallest. One fluted sheet glued between two linerboards is called a single wall style. You can add another flute and linerboard to make a double wall, a third set for a triple wall and so on. The additional flute could be the same flute size as the first, or a different size, depending on what is needed. Corrugated board can also be made with linerboard on one side only. It is called single face board.
Once the structure is made, corrugated material is cut into sheets. These sheets will be printed on, scored, cut and glued as needed to make the desired structure.
Corrugated cardboard has many uses. It is most commonly known for being made into shipping boxes. However, it is also used as protective packaging, product packaging, and many foodservice items like pizza boxes, cake circles, catering boxes and drink carriers.
WHY IT’S EFFECTIVE
As mentioned earlier, the fluted sheet creates air pockets that give the structure a cushioning effect. These air pockets also work as insulation. The fluted style also provides much more strength and sturdiness compared to paperboard. However, because it is made out of paper, corrugated board still remains lightweight. All of these things make for a very effective packaging material.
WHY IT’S A SUSTAINABLE OPTION
Corrugated bard is made from wood fiber. Wood fiber is a renewable resource, as it can be sustainably farmed. Cardboard is also very easy to recycle and use in production again. This reduces waste that goes into landfills, and reduces the amount of trees that need to be harvested to make more board.
Corrugated cardboard is recycled more than any other packaging material in the U.S. and on average, a corrugated box contains roughly 50% recycled fiber. Cardboard packaging can be recycled 5 to 7 times! You can recycle corrugated board through curb side pick up programs or by taking it to a recycling center.
When can you recycle cardboard? Almost always. The exception is when it is laminated with wax or plastic, or is wet. It has been said that corrugated board that is soiled by food, like pizza grease, cannot be recycled. However, it can be recycled, as long as you are not throwing out pieces of food with it. In the same way, be sure to remove any non-cardboard packaging materials from packaging boxes you recycle (packing peanuts, bubble wrap, etc.) Packaging tape and labels are okay.
COMPOSTABILITY & BIODEGRADABILITY
Since corrugated cardboard is made from natural fiber, it is compostable both at home and commercially. Be sure to check if your composting facility processes corrugated board. Cardboard that has been heavily dyed or coated with another material are not compostable. Again, being made from natural fibers means that cardboard will breakdown in the environment on its own. However, the time it takes depends on the conditions of the board, its size, as well as the conditions it’s in.
For more information on the differences between recyclability, compostability and biodegradability, read our article here.