Cardboard & Boxboard Recycling Dos and Don’ts

By Andrea Davis on July 30, 2021

Corrugated cardboard and boxboard are similar, but not the same. Cardboard has three layers of material, with a wavy center layer. Boxboard is one thin layer of material (think cereal box or paper towel tube). They are both great materials to recycle, but there are some things to remember. If you have curbside collection, there’s no need to sort. If you’re using a recycling drop-off, however, there may be separate containers for cardboard and boxboard. Here are a few more things to think about when recycling cardboard and boxboard.

  • Be sure it’s empty—Cardboard boxes often come with inserts of some kind, whether they’re foam, plastic bags or other packing material. Before recycling your cardboard, make sure you remove any non-cardboard items from inside the box.
  • Break it down—Cardboard tends to be bulky, so breaking it down makes it a bit more manageable to transport. Boxboard should also be broken down when possible. Breaking each of these materials down means we can fit more in the truck or the container at the recycling drop-off.
  • Leave labels, tape and staples on boxes—The cardboard recycling process accounts for removal of these items, so there’s no reason to stress about removing every bit of tape from that box before putting it in your recycling cart.
  • Include shiny and glossy cardboard and boxboard—If your cardboard or boxboard is shiny, that’s no reason not to recycle it. If it is not truly wax-coated (see the description that follows) and is not a refrigerator or freezer box, shiny is just fine for recycling.

  • Put it in dirty—Soiled cardboard and boxboard, particularly when it’s greasy, can contaminate other items in the load. Dirt and oil cause problems with processing, so dirty cardboard and boxboard shouldn’t go in your recycling.
  • Get it wet—When cardboard and boxboard get wet, the fibers are compromised. Putting wet cardboard or boxboard in a container or recycling cart gets other cardboard and boxboard wet as well.
  • Include wax-covered cardboard—If you can scrape a box with your nail and see or feel a residue coming off the box, it means it is wax-covered and shouldn’t be put in your recycling.
  • Include refrigerator or freezer boxes—Any box that was meant to be stored in a refrigerator or freezer (including 6-pack, 12-pack and 24-pack beverage cartons) contains a plastic coating that keeps the box from getting soggy. Unfortunately, that layer also makes it difficult to recycle. Please don’t put these in your recycling.


Please note, guidelines can vary. If you are not recycling through Granger Waste Services, please verify guidelines with your provider.