How is Cardboard Recycled? The cardboard recycling process in 7 key steps

Cardboard is one of the most widely recycled materials in the world. This guide will showcase the seven key steps of how cardboard is recycled, showing the journey of cardboard from waste collection, right through to its new life.

Recycling cardboard helps protect the environment and saves valuable resources from landfill. Understanding the recycling process is key to ensuring that cardboard is stored and collected correctly, reducing contamination, and helping to enable a circular economy. Our Recycling, Paper and Packaging divisions at DS Smith work together to achieve this every day.

Step 1: Cardboard sorting and storage – Cardboard is primarily used for three purposes: Transit packaging, shelf packaging and product packaging.

Step 2: Managing the quality of cardboard at the recycling facility – Next, cardboard is collected and taken by delivery vehicles to a recycling facility.

Step 3: Transportation to paper mills – Bales arrive at one of our paper mills, in loads of around 25 tonnes to fuel our paper-making process.

Step 4: Processing the cardboard bales to pulp – Cardboard enters the pulper, where it is mixed with warm water, breaking down the cardboard and causing the fibres to separate from each other.

Step 5: Making the paper – The diluted fibres are formed, pressed and dried into paper at high speed on a large machine.

Step 6: Creating the paper reels – The paper is then wound onto a huge reel. The reels are then cut down and shipped to a packaging plant, where they will be made into cardboard.

Step 7: Creating the cardboard – At the packaging plant, the paper is fed into the corrugator, a machine that makes cardboard by fusing layers of paper together.
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