Have you ever ordered something online? Well, I guess almost everyone has. How are your ordered goods delivered to your doorstep? They’re usually packed in a brown box, right?
This brown box is actually made up of cardboard, which you usually give away to recycle. However, if that box is delivered in the rain and becomes wet, you could face some difficulties recycling it.
Can you recycle wet cardboard? No, we cannot recycle wet cardboard because wet cardboard drastically interferes in the recycling process by badly clogging the recycling machinery. And when it does that to the machinery, workers have to spend hours cleaning it.
Did you know that cardboard itself is produced by recycling paper, wood sawdust, etc.? Just a small change in its property can stop it from being recycled.
We find cardboard to be used in almost every container box. The cardboard itself is a biodegradable, eco-friendly, and highly recyclable material.
Are you a concerned citizen who wants to take a green step? Could there be any possible way to recycle wet cardboard?
Let’s get right to it.
Why can wet cardboard not be recycled?
Honestly, it is not that as soon as cardboard gets wet, it loses its property to be recycled. It is just that before the recycling process starts, different materials of different properties are sorted.
When the cardboard is wet, it is quite difficult to separate things from it. Therefore, most recycling centers refuse to accept wet cardboard.
There are basically two reasons behind the difficulty in recycling wet cardboard.
1. Wet cardboard could clog the recycling machines
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the first reason behind the difficulty of handling it in recycling facilities is that it clogs up different machines used in the recycling process.
Recycling centers mostly use automated machines to sort out different items from other unwanted materials.
Now, if wet cardboard is put into the machine that sorts certain materials from others, it can clog them up. And once that happens, it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to clear it up.
Did you know that it’s not the large wet cardboard that clogs the sorting machine but the small pieces of wet cardboard?
A small piece of it can clog the machine and shut it down for a prolonged period of time.
Already there are very few numbers of recycling facilities. If these existing facilities faced problems, it would cut down the amount of waste recycled.
This would lead to more amount of waste in dump yards, causing more pollution.
2. Wet cardboard is difficult to separate from other materials
The second reason behind the difficulty in recycling wet cardboard is that you cannot easily separate items because of its wetness.
Whenever the process of recycling is carried out, automated machines separate materials based on their weights. Therefore, different materials are separated based on how heavy and how light they are.
Lighter materials like paper and cards get separated from other materials on shaking upon a conveyor belt. Cardboard is a very light and strong material. Therefore, when dry, it is separated along with paper and cards.
But when it is wet, its weight increases, and the machine considers it to be a heavy material, resulting in the improper sorting of materials.
Have you ever noticed that when paper becomes wet and is dried later, its properties change? The same case applies to cardboards.
Other than the two reasons mentioned above, recycling wet cardboard is tough because after being wet, there would be changes in the fibers of the cardboard.
Machines find it tough to break down the fibers.
Another reason behind the difficulty in recycling wet cardboard is that people do not want to carry it because it is quite heavy to carry compared to when it is dry.
How to prepare wet cardboard for recycling?
Usually, you will find that most people just toss the wet cardboard into the trash. But did you know that you can recycle your wet cardboard by making some preparations?
How can you prepare your wet cardboard for recycling? Well, you just need to dry your cardboard before sending it for recycling.
Before we dive into how you can dry into wet cardboard, always remember the reason behind why wet cardboards are directly not sent for recycling.
How to dry wet cardboard?
1. Air drying
The most reliable and easy method to dry your wet cardboard is the technique of air drying.
You can easily get rid of all the moisture with this technique. Air drying not only helps to dry cardboards but any other wet material as well.
For instance, you dry your clothes every day using air drying. This technique helps you to dry your wet cardboard and make it absolutely ready for recycling.
Drying the cardboard will reduce its weight and make it easier for automated sorting machines to separate them from other heavy materials.
2. Freezing of materials
Another way of drying wet cardboard is to freeze it. In a freezer, most of the moisture gets clocked.
Freezing cardboards will stop any more moisture from affecting them. After freezing, you can take out the frozen materials in small quantities and air-dry them.
This strategy of drying is suitable when you have large amounts of wet cardboard to dry. Following this technique of drying wet cardboards results in the least amount of twisting.
The technique of dehumidification-drying gives a much better result while drying wet cardboard. This process can be carried out with gear leased from a vendor.
You can dry your wet cardboard within a few days. The drying of a material depends on how wet the material is.
Therefore, you have to dry your cardboard before sending them for recycling. Drying wet cardboard depends on a few factors, which are the thickness and wetness of your cardboard.
If it is too thick and drenched in water, then it will take over a week to dry. If you have the determination to recycle it, you have to wait it out to dry.
Under no circumstances can you allow the wet cardboard to enter automated sorting machines, as it will then affect the entire recycling process in the recycling factories.
Although you do not wet your cardboard deliberately, you should always try to prevent your cardboard from getting wet. You should always be energetic when it comes to recycling various products.
You can prevent your cardboard from getting wet by ensuring that it is well protected and away from water or any other kind of liquid.
You can also protect it by wrapping it in a biodegradable bag or covering it with a tarpaulin.
Can you recycle oily cardboard?
Suppose you ordered a few boxes of pizza. Now, you might have noticed that pizza boxes are also cardboard boxes. After having your meal, you are left with those empty cardboard boxes covered with oil and grease.
Now, the question arises, can you recycle oily cardboard? How can you dispose of these oily boxes?
Sadly, you cannot recycle oily cardboard boxes. All the oil and grease stuck to them can affect the recycling of materials.
I have specifically written an article on this. you can read the article on can you recycle pizza boxes.
You cannot recycle these oily materials because, in the pulping process, the fibers of the oily cardboard cannot be separated.
You can remove the oiliness from the cardboard by simply washing it with soap water.
Disposing of wet cardboard
When it comes to wet cardboard, recycling is not the only way of getting rid of it. There are other ways of disposing of it as well. Let’s take a look at them below:
1. Making playhouses for children
For making playhouses for children, you first need to dry out your wet cardboard boxes. Children are always occupied with various toys and games.
Why not add more fun to their lives? You can create a miniature house for your children to play in and even involve your kids to display their creativity.
By using glue and scissors, you can make some cuts and create some joints that will allow you to construct a house with doors, windows, and a roof.
You can keep your kids occupied in this activity, igniting their creativity and recycling your cardboard at the same time.
2. Storage boxes
A lot of people spend quite a lot of money on buying storage boxes. Well, you can be smart and store your wet cardboard boxes. You would just need to dry them and store them.
Sometimes wet cardboard could be stronger and more durable than your dry cardboard. It is because the fibers of cardboard get reassembled while drying it.
With glue, scissors, and tape, you can fix your once wet cardboard boxes and use them for storage purposes. You can even paint them and change their look completely.
Did you know that wet cardboard would be perfect for mulch? By using wet cardboards, you easily block the growth of weeds in your gardens.
When large pieces of wet cardboard are placed on top of the weed, they are prevented from getting sunlight and, hence, they die.
Those wet cardboard can be used to insulate plants from the cold. Over time they can also be decomposed into the soil.
As we come to the end of this article, we realize that wet cardboards are not suitable for recycling at all.
However, there are several ways to prepare them for recycling if you’re willing to work for it. Moreover, you can even reuse and recycle these boxes in many creative ways.
Remember, whenever you’re stuck with wet cardboard boxes, tossing them away in the bin should never be your first thought. You can always take a green step for a cleaner future.