Written by Margaret Kemp
Over 85 percent of all products that are sold in the United States are packed in cardboard. In Wolf Point alone, the city recycles between 1,500 and 2,100 pounds of cardboard each and every day. That’s a lot of cardboard. Now, multiply that number by all the surrounding communities, now the surrounding states, and even other countries. The numbers are mind boggling.
Where does all this cardboard come from? It comes from a raw material called pulp which is extracted from trees. Since there are a limited number of trees in the world and we need every last one of them to preserve our planet’s oxygen levels, reduce carbon dioxide, and help maintain the rain formation cycle in the world, it makes sense to try to cut down on the amount of cardboard we use. Obviously, we cannot stop packing products, so the only viable solution left is to reuse the cardboard in the most efficient and cost effective way.
It’s a fact; manufacturing is no friend to the environment. Every step in the manufacturing process of cardboard produces tons of hazardous gasses which are blown into the air every day. However, through a combined worldwide effort to recycle cardboard, these gases have been reduced by half. Manufacturing companies are now adapting greener ways of cardboard production which emit less chemical waste. They are doing their part, let’s do ours. We can do our part by recycling as much cardboard as we can.
Cardboard is the single largest component of municipal solid waste around the world. Everyone needs to become involved with recycling cardboard, be it on a small scale at home or on an industrial level where companies change their manufacturing techniques to incorporate cardboard recycling.
Here are some interesting facts:
•544,000 trees could be saved every year if each household in the United States would replace just one roll of 70-sheet virgin fiber paper towels with a roll of 100 percent-recycled paper towels.
•For every ton (2,000 pounds) of cardboard that we recycle, we can save nine cubic yards of landfill space.
•Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, nine cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water. This represents a 64 percent energy savings, a 58 percent water savings and 60 pounds less of air pollution!
•The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year!
•The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years.
•When you smell a dump, what you actually smell is the paper in the dump!
•Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
•Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year — about 680 pounds per person.
•The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Most is packaging and junk mail.
•In 1993, U.S. paper recovery saved more than 90,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space.
•In 1993, nearly 36,000,000 tons of paper was recovered in the U.S. — twice as much as in 1980.
•The 17 trees saved can absorb a total of 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. Burning that same ton of paper would create 1500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
•The construction costs of a paper mill designed to use waste paper is 50 to 80 percent less than the cost of a mill using new pulp.
Imagine the number of trees we could save if the whole world recycled cardboard materials.
In order to help, our objective with all products, be it packing materials or boxes, coming into our homes and offices should be to reduce the amount of cardboard we use.
We can try to buy less produce or products that come wrapped or encased in cardboard. As business owners, it may be worth checking out manufacturers who use less cardboard in their packing, or informing them that you need to receive products with less nonessential cardboard packaging and encouraging them to scale back the waste.
As consumers, our purchasing power carries lots of weight with producers and manufacturers. If we use our spending power to influence providers, a lot can be accomplished, especially in the area of cardboard waste prevention.
One important step we can do is to attempt to find cardboard that shows the ‘cardboard recycling’ trademark. This is a sequence of arrows at right-angles, frequently with a percentage in the middle that shows the proportion of recycled material in that package, normally a 50/50 proportion of new cardboard to recycled fibers.
There are two types of cardboard used in packaging materials. One is the cardboard that is considered recyclable and the other is cardboard that is not. Recyclable cardboard is the tangled or messy kind of cardboard generally seen in packaging materials which is often called corrugated cardboard. The non-recyclable cardboard is called flat cardboard or paperboard. The non-recyclable cardboard containers include:
•milk cartons (because of their wax coating)
•some frozen food boxes
•pop/soda and alcohol sleeves (thin paper boxes used to package cans and bottles)
Each and every one of us has a duty to recycle. Community members should be well versed on the issues of good practices for recycling and reusing cardboard. Parents should to talk to their children about recycling because they are the future. Most schools, be it private or public have been implementing classes about reducing, reusing, and recycling cardboard, electronics and any other material that can be recycled or reused. Governments around the world have been taking a positive step towards recycling and educating the public about the importance of these issues.
The City of Wolf Point has been doing its part for over a decade by offering cardboard disposal to area businesses at no charge. Throughout the city, there are wire cages located at or near most businesses where cardboard can be deposited. All that is required, is that you break down the boxes before placing them in the wire cages.
As noted at the beginning of the article, the City of Wolf Point recycles between 1,500 and 2,100 pounds of cardboard everyday from the various pick up points within the city. If the cardboard boxes are not broken down, the boxes take up valuable space in the cardboard trailer and require more trips to haul the cardboard.
What can usually be hauled in one or two trips when flattened requires four and five trips when the boxes are not. More trips mean more fuel expense and employee time, computing to more expense for the city.
So, please, do your part and break down your boxes before depositing.