Cardboard boxes—you know, the things that make your holiday shopping easier than ever, thanks to online shopping—are one of the most recycled forms of packaging. In fact, 92% of all cardboard boxes in the United States were recycled in 2019.
That’s great—but given that 62% of Americans worry that they don’t understand recycling rules enough to recycle properly, that number could be even higher. Read our tips below about what can be recycled and what not to recycle.
Know Your Community
If you’re unsure of your community’s guidelines, BeRecycled.org offers a nationwide lookup system that can lead you to the right spot in your town’s recycling rules and educate you on what can be recycled. In general, cardboard boxes need to be dry, and flattened (find out the easiest way to flatten boxes here).
A common mistake is including non-recyclable packaging material in the recycling bin. Most municipal recycling facilities do not accept plastic foam, inflated packaging, plastic air pockets and other “soft” plastics (i.e., the kind that keeps its shape if you scrunch it). Those should go to a dedicated drop-off spot. If your community offers one, BeRecycled.org can lead you there.
Recycle Food Packaging with Care
Paper-based food packaging like paperboard takeout boxes and paper bags are a sustainable option in part because they’re made with a renewable resource. And much of the time they can be recycled—but not always.
Depending on the rules of your local facility, you may be able to recycle paper food packaging like cups as long as they’re empty and clean.
Think About Packaging Beyond Boxes
You know you can recycle cardboard boxes. But you might accidentally toss out other forms of recyclable packaging that pop up this time of year, like the tube of that roll of wrapping paper or molded pulp packaging (the egg carton-type packaging that often secures goods in place within their box). Most recycling facilities accept these along with cardboard. To stay on top of proper recycling for other parts of holiday gift-giving, check out these short videos on wrapping paper and greeting cards with festive embellishments.
With these tips, you’ll be all set to recycle your packages not only during and after the holidays, but throughout the year.
Want more? Learn more about holiday recycling with 10 surprising facts!