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Retail Industry Opinion

Can you recycle cardboard boxes?

How SMEs can help to reduce their carbon footprint

Can you recycle cardboard boxes?

"There is a strong possibility that you are already using cardboard packaging in your online business, but if not why not make a change today and see how such a little change can make a large impact!"
Kelly Rowson

Corrugated packaging has started to grow in popularity. E-commerce and online businesses are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and packaging is one place to start.

According to a white paper created by Defra, just over 64% of corrugated packaging is recycled in the UK and the plan is to increase this to 70% by 2030. Due to its recyclable qualities it is a stable packing favourite, especially within the e-commerce and online sector.

There is a strong possibility that you are already using cardboard packaging in your online business, but if not why not make a change today and see how such a little change can make a large impact with your business.

To understand how corrugated boxes can help your business reduce its carbon footprint, we need to understand exactly how they are made and what elements go into making them.  

Corrugated Cardboard

Corrugated cardboard is manufactured from three components, which include a ‘fluted’ middle section and two outer liners of paper or card, which are then glued to the flute to add stability to the board and to create a robust structure. The liner paper is made from either Kraft or Test paper.

Kraft or Test Paper

Kraft is a popular choice due to its smoother surface. It’s a strong paper and because of its smooth surface, it’s easy to print on. This is the paper that it used on most of the corrugated cardboard boxes that you will see.

Test is a recycled paper and is not as strong as Kraft. It’s not as nice looking as Kraft and is often used for the inside of the boxes as it is very inexpensive.

There are other types of speciality papers such as Kemi Lite which is a coated board that gives off a light glossy finish but these are not widely used in the e-commerce sector.

Paper Weight

The weight of the paper is measured in grams per square meter or GSM. Common weights used are 125 gsm, 150 gsm and 200 gsm. Normal copier paper used in your office or home printer usually weighs in at 80 gsm.

Corrugated Board

Various types of cardboard can be created using different flute sizes, which include double wall, single wall and tri-wall. whereas tri-wall adds another layer of fluting and extra lining.

Single Wall consists of two pieces of paper with one middle flute section. Single Wall can be used for a variety of uses including storage and sending goods through the postal or courier system
Double Wall features an additional liner and fluting. Double wall boxes are ideal for packing heavier items and make suitable house moving boxes.
Triple Wall adds another layer of fluting to make three flutes and four liners. Triple wall is used for high cost and heavy items such as TV’s, tools, heavy machinery and even home boilers.

Flute can vary in width and size and the arch shape of the fluting allows air to circulate which acts as an insulator, providing additional protection against temperature variation. It is the flute that can affect the performance of your boxes.

  • E Flute is used on most die-cut pip boxes. This type of flute is ideal for printing on due to its high-quality surface, has excellent compression strength and a great resistance to crushing.
  •  B Flute is an ideal flute for transit packaging. It is thicker and weighs heavier. B-Flute is a good all-rounder.
  • BC Flute - B Flute is married with C Flute which gives a higher level of protection for your products and is commonly known as double wall. This type of flute is typically used on boxes that need to be stronger for house moving or exporting.
  • Z Flute – Also known as M, S or R Flute®. It is ideal for printing on due to its high-quality surface. It’s a much smaller and compact fluting, whilst still optimising board strength. It’s perfect for e-commerce, online sellers and offers necessary protection for your products.

Benefits The benefits of corrugated cardboard boxes are as follows;

  • Savings when compared to plastic packaging
  • Goods look nicer & more expensive in a box
  • 100% recyclable
  • Higher resistance to crushing
  • Able to withstand the rigours of shipping
  • Perfect for the e-commerce sector
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Improved performance
  • Easy to print on
  • Can be flat packed for storage
  • Ideal for FMCG

Whilst there is a lot more to making cardboard boxes, this should help you to have a better understanding of what goes into making your cardboard boxes and can help you make an informed decision on the material that you should use for your business.

Article by Boxed-Up Packaging