Can You Recycle Wet Cardboard?

If you are an avid online shopper, you must have tons of cardboard boxes. After accumulating so many of these boxes, you must be considering disposing of them.

Don’t let most of the cardboard end up in the trash. Instead, consider recycling these cardboard boxes.

This guide will answer everything you need to know about recycling wet cardboard, in particular.

Recycling Wet Cardboard

It isn’t uncommon to have wet cardboard in your house, especially if you experience frequent rain. The cardboard boxes or pieces can accidentally get dipped in water while playing.

Alternatively, you might have left your cardboard box outside. It might have gotten wet because of the rain in such a case.

So, what to do with wet cardboard lying around in your house? How can you make use of it?

If you’re interested in sustainably letting go of wet cardboard, keep reading this guide. We will discuss all of the ways you can dispose of and recycle wet cardboard.

Can You Recycle Wet Cardboard?

All paper types, including cardboard, are recycled.

However, there are some variations of cardboard that cannot be recycled. One such variation is wet cardboard. Unfortunately, you cannot recycle it.

If you have extremely wet cardboard, it is of no use to the recycling facility. In fact, it might even be a problem for them if wet cardboard ends up in their facility.

How Cardboard Gets Recycled

Before we discuss if you can recycle wet cardboard, you need to know how it gets recycled. Understanding the process will help clarify why it cannot be recycled.

If you recycle at home, you probably put everything in a recycling bin on the curbside. This bin gets picked up by the recycling company and taken to their facility,

The contents of the bins are separated into plastic, paper, metal, and glass. These separated materials are then sent to the manufacturers.

The manufacturers process these materials into new products or other materials. This sorting is done automatically on a conveyor belt.

The conveyor belt bounces everything so that they reach the top and get separated. Hence, the primary way materials get sorted for recycling is through their weight.

When cardboard is wet and mushy, it becomes heavier. Hence, it will not really float to the top like it normally should. Not only that, but they may get stuck in the spinning disc and clog up the machine.

Why You Cannot Recycle Wet Cardboard

Here are the main reasons why you should not recycle wet cardboard:

The Content of Fiber is Different

The main reason it cannot be recycled is that the water has weakened the cardboard. In particular, it has weakened the fibers of the box and turned it soggy.

Thus the cardboard becomes difficult to break down. Water is already added to cardboard during the process of recycling.

However, when the material is already wet, the additional water manipulates the fiber content. Hence, it makes that specific cardboard piece worthless.

As a result, it isn’t of much use to the recycling company. When such cardboard is placed in the sorting machine, it ends up clogging it up.

Even a small amount can potentially clog up the machine. A small clog can shut down the machine for days.

Then the facility has to pay a lot of money to clear it. Hence, the results of recycling wet cardboard are simply not worth it.

Varying Weight and Density

Another reason why wet cardboard cannot be recycled is because of its weight and density. Before recycling, materials are sorted automatically by the machine based on their weight.

Paper and cardboard are considered lightweight, so they are sorted and put in different categories. However, when a cardboard piece is wet, it becomes heavier.

This is why this material is not sorted into the right category. It thus gets mixed with the wrong pile, and they may contaminate each other.

Due to this contamination, other materials might become useless as well. Hence, recycling wet cardboard is not a good idea, even if it gets picked up.

Wet Cardboard is Worthless

When cardboard gets wet, it compromises the fiber content. Even if it dries up, the cardboard typically stays brittle.

Not only that, but if cardboard has been wet for a long time, it builds up mold. This happens fairly quickly.

Moldy cardboard should never be recycled. This is because the mold can actually contaminate other materials in the recycling facility.

To conclude, wet cardboard does not have any use for the recycling facility. The recycling facility might not pick up wet cardboard in the first place.

It will probably not be recycled even if they take it, since it clogs the machine. It can also harm other materials in the facility.

So, How Do We Recycle Wet Cardboard?

If you want only to recycle wet cardboard, you need to follow certain steps. If the material is completely wet and soggy, it simply can not be recycled.

Additionally, if you notice a build-up of mold in the cardboard, then don’t recycle it. This can potentially harm other materials in the facility.

Under no circumstances should you recycle wet and moldy cardboard. However, you can leave the cardboard out to dry in the sun if it’s not that wet.

Once it has completely dried, you can give it to the recycling facility. The time taken to dry it out ultimately depends on the thickness of the cardboard piece.

It should be noted that this needs to be done only if the material is not extremely wet. If it is partially wet, you can consider recycling.

Once it has dried, check for signs of mold. If you don’t find any, you can recycle the cardboard.

What to Do With Wet Cardboard

If you cannot recycle wet cardboard, what can you do with it instead?

Luckily, your wet cardboard does not need to go to waste. It can be used for multiple purposes.

Some of these are useful, while others are creative and playful. Here’s what you can do with wet cardboard if you cannot recycle it:

Use It in Composting

The wet material can be used for composting since it can break down and enrich the soil. You can take it to a composting site, or do it for your plants.

To compost cardboard that is wet, make sure that you first tear it into small pieces. When you mix the shredded pieces in the soil, the bacteria breaks it down.

Shredded cardboard is also easier to add into greens. Mix it with carbon-rich materials such as hay, leaves, and straw.

Children Playhouses

You might be surprised at how much fun children can have with a simple cardboard box. First, you should thoroughly dry out the cardboard box.

Then, you can create a game out of it for the kids. They can construct their own house with this box.

Not only that, but they can also paint the house themselves. This would be an excellent technique to keep the children occupied.

Create Storage Boxes

You could make a DIY and sturdy storage box out of your wet cardboard. Cardboard that is dried in the sun is more durable and sturdier.

This is because the fibers had been reattached when the cardboard was being dried. This is why it can work as a sturdy and reliable storage box. 

You can put tape on it so that it is sturdier. Additionally, you can paint it however you like with colors and texture.

Use it for Mulch

Another great use for cardboard is mulch. Shredded and smaller cardboard pieces can be added to the soil.

This will prevent weeds from getting out of control. The cardboard will also insulate the plants during the colder season.

Place some soil, wood chips, and leaf litter over the wet cardboard. This will be beneficial over time.

This is because the cardboard will eventually break down the soil and enrich it.

Plant Pots in It

Dried wet cardboard is a perfect alternative for pots. Wet cardboard for this purpose can be easily used, but make sure to wrap it with plastic.

To make a plant pot with cardboard, reinforce the bottom and corners with tape. Then add a plastic lining to it.

You can then paint and decorate the box however you like. Before using it for planting, add small holes to the lower part for proper drainage.

Final Words

Recycling is an excellent way to dispose of discarded waste materials. However, you might have limited recycling options if you have wet cardboard.

Instead of recycling wet cardboard, you can consider reusing it in other ways. For example, you can use it for composting and mulch.

Wet cardboard is a popular material for composting because it is quite effective. It enriches the soil effectively.

Otherwise, you can repurpose the cardboard box and use it for other things. You can create a storage box, plant pot, or even a children’s playhouse from it.

So, don’t let your wet cardboard go to waste. Reuse it if you cannot recycle it.

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