Is Cardboard Biodegradable? | Build a Stash

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Key Takeaways

  • Cardboard is 100% biodegradable when it is clean and not contaminated with food, water, oil, or any other non-recyclable material.
  • Biodegradation occurs naturally as cardboard is exposed to bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It does not require any artificial catalysts.
  • Cardboard biodegradation can take anywhere from 2 months to 12 months depending on the size, thickness, and environmental conditions it is exposed to.

Cardboard is everywhere. From packaging materials for online orders to the boxes that store our everyday items. But is cardboard biodegradable?

Yes, cardboard is 100% biodegradable. It’s a safe material for the environment and it’s compostable and recyclable. It takes between 2-12 months for cardboard to decompose after being recycled or thrown away. Corrugated cardboard materials will take the longest.

In this article, we'll discuss the composition of cardboard and its biodegradability to provide a clear answer. We'll further dive into these factors and learn more about the intricacies of cardboard and its impact on the environment.

Table of contents


Is Cardboard Biodegradable?

Yes, cardboard is biodegradable. In fact, it's 100% biodegradable if it’s clean and free of contaminants like oil and grease. It breaks down naturally thanks to factors like water, soil, air, microorganisms, and sunlight.This makes it an eco-friendly option for disposing of cardboard.

However, the time it takes for cardboard to fully decompose can vary. It can take anywhere from 2 months to 12 months, depending on the size, thickness, and environmental conditions.

Standard cardboard boxes are made from plant-based materials, which are used to create paper. This is why cardboard, just like paper, can break down naturally over time.

How Long Does It Take Cardboard To Biodegrade?

The time it takes for cardboard to break down and biodegrade varies depending on several factors. On average, it takes about 2 months for cardboard to biodegrade. Factors that affect the decomposition time include:

  • The type of cardboard - Corrugated cardboard takes longer.
  • The state of the cardboard - Ripped or damaged fibers break down quicker.
  • Environmental conditions - Moisture and temperature influence the process.

If the cardboard has a wax or plastic lining, decomposition happens much more slowly, taking up to 1 year in some cases. Cardboards exposed to different weather conditions can also take up to 1 year to fully biodegrade.

Landfills may cause cardboard to decompose at a different rate. It can take anywhere between months to years, depending on various conditions such as wetness and thickness. For example corrugated boxes won’t biodegrade as fast.

Is Cardboard Recyclable?

Yes, recycling cardboard is highly recommended as it has numerous benefits for the environment. When you recycle cardboard, you help conserve natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save energy.

Recycling cardboard helps reduce the demand for new raw materials, which in turn saves trees from being cut down. Every ton of recycled cardboard saves about 17 trees, preserving valuable ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

Recycling also uses much less energy compared to manufacturing new cardboard. The cardboard recycling process is normal. You can break down the boxes and cardboard packaging and use a traditional recycling bin at home.

This results in a significant reduction in energy demand and carbon emissions. However, to be effectively recycled, it's crucial to ensure that the cardboard is clean and free from contamination such as food, liquids, or oils.

Only unsoiled cardboard can be recycled and turned into new products. Recycling cardboard is an effective way to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. So, next time you have a cardboard box or packaging, consider recycling it instead of simply throwing it away.

Cardboard and Biodegradation

Cardboard is recyclable, clean, and biodegradable. But how does it work? We’ll review how cardboard breaks down, the decomposition time frame, and other factors that impact the biodegradability of this material.

How Cardboard Breaks Down

Cardboard, being made from natural biodegradable materials like cellulose, decomposes thanks to factors such as water, soil, air, microorganisms, and sunlight.

These elements work together with bacteria and other microorganisms to break down the cardboard naturally without causing harm to the environment.

Timeframe for Decomposition

The decomposition process varies depending on the size and thickness of the material and the environment in which it's placed. It can take anywhere from 2 months to 12 months for cardboard to fully biodegrade.

By understanding this timeframe, we can better manage cardboard disposal in an eco-friendly manner.

Is Cardboard Compostable?

Cardboard is compostable as it comes from a natural source. As a natural material, it will eventually break down and release carbon into the soil. It’s common to compost cardboard boxes.

However, not all types of cardboard can be composted. It's essential to consider factors like greasy pizza boxes or the presence of ink printing. But you’ll see items like cereal boxes get recycled often.

The actual time frame for the decomposition of cardboard can vary from 2 to 12 months, depending on factors like compost pile size, thickness, and environmental conditions.

When deciding if cardboard is compostable, consider these guidelines:

  • Ensure the cardboard is clean and free of contaminants
  • Confirm the cardboard is made from organic materials
  • Remove any tape, stickers or adhesives before composting

Composting cardboard properly can contribute positively to the environment and your garden, so making sure only the appropriate types of cardboard are added to your compost bin is crucial.

Is Cardboard Bad For The Environment?

In general, we consider cardboard eco-friendly. It is made from paper and other organic materials that are both sustainable and renewable. This biodegradation process is facilitated by factors such as water, soil, air, microorganisms, and sunlight.

However, there are certain types of cardboard that are less environmentally friendly, such as plastic-coated ones. These do not biodegrade easily and may contain harmful elements.

It is important to keep cardboard clean and uncontaminated. Ideally, it should only be thrown away after exposure to natural materials. Once contaminated, the cardboard may take longer to biodegrade or pose a potential risk to the environment.

In summary, regular cardboard is generally not bad for the environment. It is biodegradable and made from sustainable resources. Be sure to avoid plastic-coated versions, and always dispose of cardboard responsibly.

Is Cardboard Good For Soil?

Yes, cardboard can be beneficial for the soil when it is untreated, containing no wax, glue, or chemicals. Being biodegradable, untreated cardboard can be added to compost piles, where it breaks down and serves as a healthy form of fertilizer for plants and soil.

Composting cardboard also helps aerate the soil and improve drainage, making it more conducive for plant growth. However, it is important to note that soiled or stained cardboard is compostable, but may not be recommended for recycling.

Always ensure to dispose of cardboard appropriately to minimize environmental impact. Breakdown corrugated cardboard and cardboard boxes so it’s easier to dispose of and the biodegrade process occurs faster.