Cardboard and Landfills…Making a Difference

Cardboard and Landfills

According to Annenberg Media, paper and cardboard account for 41% of landfill in the United States alone! Sadly, of that paper and cardboard, only 25% gets recycled.

While statistics are sparse, it could be assumed that as much of 90% of products shipped in and out of the United States are shipped in cardboard boxes. Can you imagine if we could reduce that even by one half? The end result could be stammering, considering 41% of waste is paper and cardboard, and if we reduced the actual use of such materials the domino effect would be nearly miraculous.

In these times of being more “green” perhaps it’s time to find alternatives to using cardboard boxes. Having, literally, just moved I found myself unpacking box after box only to wonder “what do I do with these now?” A box doesn’t last for long periods of time, they seem to tear apart with wear quite easily and to be honest I’m not that thrilled with leaving a box of my items sitting in the basement where we could possibly have a bit of a flood only to watch the box disintegrate just enough to see the items inside be ruined. I found myself actually looking for options that would not only provide ease of moving but perhaps even allow me to continue to use the container afterwards for storage or re-use it so I had less garbage going back out.

I was amazed to find that in an average “large city”, for example Seattle, uses about 1 million cardboard boxes a year just for moving! Figure it out, 41% of that is 410,000 boxes from ONE large city, per year, going into the dump. How long can our earth keep up with it?

Cardboard is made from cellulose fibers, often wood pulp. To make virgin cardboard, it is necessary to chop down trees, plain and simple. Chopping down trees leads to the destruction of the surrounding habitat and wildlife. Again, a domino effect of using an item that can easily and economically be replaced with alternative methods could save forest areas the size of an average state, along with the wildlife residing in it.

Some may argue that cardboard is biodegradable, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that while it may break down in the landfills, it will produce the greenhouse gas Methane as it is breaking down. An increase in the amount of Methane being released into the atmosphere contributes to global warming as well as take up unnecessary space in the landfill areas. All in all, no matter how “biodegradable” the product is, it’s only as “earth friendly” as its ability to degrade with minimal effects to the atmosphere. More Methane gas is not a positive effect of the cardboard breaking up in the landfill, period.

For me, I realized it’s time to find a better alternative to cardboard boxes and I’m going to make a true effort in minimizing the use of them all around. I’d like to see companies begin shipping in reusable, plastic containers instead of cardboard. I’d like to see a change in the idea of moving with cardboard boxes, as they rip open because they’re over packed and too heavy, and instead using reusable containers that can continue to serve a purpose. Not to mention, maybe when I finally unload that last box 3 years from now I won’t be too upset that my favorite snuggly bear got ruined because the cardboard somehow got wet & ruined him! It seems like a pretty realistic option to me and one that can make a huge difference in our world.

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