September 21, 2022
I have mentioned when the pandemic hit in early 2020 and operations shut down, so did my local recycling center. When the center finally opened 10 weeks later, I stuffed my recyclables in the jeep filling it completely. This included newspaper, glass, plastic bottles (drink and milk), tin cans, and cardboard. I have continued to take my recyclables to the center but have found it harder to know when it is open. The hours have changed at least three times over the last two years, and that does not include times it has just been closed (presumably virus related). Over the last two weeks I faced several setbacks in my quest to unload recyclables. I did not know they had changed hours (and days) and when I first showed up the center was closed. When I returned the following week, the truck had not arrived to remove the cardboard bin. I was able to deposit my other items, but the cardboard stayed in the jeep. I drove the broken down boxes around another week, then loaded the additional cardboard I had and went back to the center. They had again changed their hours.
When I looked online, I found Cardboard is a generic term for heavy paper-based products. The term “cardboard” has general use in English and French, but the term is frowned on in commerce and industry as not defining a specific product and they tend to use more specific terminology. The construction can range from a thick paper known as paperboard to corrugated fiberboard which is made of multiple plies of material. Natural cardboards range from grey to light brown in color, depending on the specific product, but dyes, pigments, printing, and coatings are available to change the color and look of the cardboard. Cardboard was first made in France in 1751 and was used to reinforce playing cards. The term cardboard has been used since at least 1848, when Anne Brontë mentioned it in her novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Kellogg brothers first used paperboard cartons to hold their corn flaked cereal, and when they marketed it to the public included a heat-sealed bag of wax paper wrapped around the outside of the box along with their printed brand name. In modern times this bag is plastic and is kept inside the box.
During 2020 the US hit a record high for the manufacture of cardboard. Around 80% of all the products sold in the United States are packaged in cardboard and over 120 billion pieces were used that year. That same year, over 13,000 separate pieces of consumer cardboard packaging was thrown away by American households, which combined with all paper products constitutes almost 42% of solid waste generated by the US annually. Most types of cardboard are recyclable, but boards that are laminates, wax coated, or treated for wet strength are more difficult to recycle. Clean cardboard (not subject to chemical coatings) is usually worth recovering, although the difference between its value and the cost of recovery is marginal. Cardboard can be recycled for industrial or domestic use, and like newspaper, cardboard can be composted or shredded for animal bedding.
THOUGHTS: Some will ask why I did not check the website before I packed my items for recycling. The answer is I did but the site had not been updated. I checked again as I sat in front of the locked gate and found the hours had been changed in May. The new hours included (most of) the hours I was accustomed to use, but not all. Many stores and businesses have taken to including a disclaimer saying, “Hours may vary due to restrictions”, and you are asked to call for confirmation. Like blaming supply chain issues, and the signs on semi mud flaps warning you to “stay back”, this is another way of saying, “It is not my fault.” Someone must be accountable, right? I took my cardboard to recycling today. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.