Can wet cardboard be recycled?

Discover the Sustainable Solution for Recycling Wet Cardboard

Cardboard is a widely used material in packaging and shipping industries. It is lightweight, durable, and easily recyclable, making it a popular choice for businesses and individuals alike. However, one question that often arises is whether wet cardboard can be recycled. In this blog post, we will explore the topic of recycling wet cardboard, the process of cardboard recycling, and the best practices for recycling cardboard boxes.

How does cardboard get recycled?

Before we delve into the question of recycling wet cardboard, let's first understand the process of cardboard recycling. Cardboard recycling typically involves the following steps:

  • Collection: Cardboard boxes and packaging materials are collected from households, businesses, and recycling centers. These boxes can be flattened for easier transportation.
  • Sorting: Once collected, the cardboard is sorted based on its quality and type. This step helps to ensure that only clean and uncontaminated cardboard enters the recycling process.
  • Shredding: The sorted cardboard is then shredded into small pieces to increase its surface area, making it easier to process further.
  • Pulping: The shredded cardboard is mixed with water and chemicals to create a slurry called pulp. This pulp is then screened to remove any remaining contaminants.
  • De-inking: If the cardboard contains ink or other coatings, it goes through a de-inking process to remove any unwanted substances.
  • Re-pulping: The cleaned pulp is mixed with fresh water to create a new slurry, which is then formed into sheets of recycled cardboard.
  • Drying and pressing: The sheets of recycled cardboard are dried and pressed to remove excess water and create a flat, sturdy material.
  • Finishing: Finally, the recycled cardboard sheets are cut into desired sizes and can be used to manufacture new cardboard boxes or other paper products.

Can you recycle wet cardboard?

Now, let's address the question at hand: can you recycle wet cardboard? The short answer is no, wet cardboard should not be recycled. Wet or damp cardboard poses several challenges in the recycling process:

  • Quality degradation: Moisture weakens the integrity of the cardboard, making it less suitable for recycling. Wet cardboard is more likely to tear or break apart during the shredding and pulping stages.
  • Contamination risk: Wet cardboard can easily become contaminated with mold, bacteria, or other harmful substances. This contamination can spread to other cardboard during the recycling process, compromising the quality of the recycled material.
  • Efficiency and cost: Recycling wet cardboard requires additional drying and processing steps, which can be time-consuming and costly. It is more efficient and economically viable to recycle dry cardboard.

Therefore, it is important to keep your cardboard dry and separate it from other recyclables to ensure its proper recycling.

Can you compost cardboard?

If you find yourself with wet or soiled cardboard that cannot be recycled, composting can be a viable alternative. Cardboard, especially the untreated and uncoated variety, can be composted along with other organic waste. However, it is essential to remove any tape, labels, or plastic elements from the cardboard before composting.

Composting wet cardboard can help it break down naturally and return to the soil as organic matter. This process is beneficial for home gardeners or those with access to composting facilities.

Ways to reuse or repurpose cardboard boxes

While recycling and composting are the most common methods of dealing with cardboard waste, there are also several creative ways to reuse or repurpose cardboard boxes:

  • Storage and organization: Cardboard boxes can be used for storing items in your home, garage, or office. They can be easily labeled and stacked to create an efficient storage system.
  • Shipping and moving: If the cardboard box is still in good condition, it can be reused for shipping or moving purposes. Simply remove any old labels or tape and reinforce the box with additional packing tape if necessary.
  • Arts and crafts: Cardboard boxes can be transformed into various art projects, such as DIY organizers, playhouses, or even costumes. Let your imagination run wild!
  • Gardening and mulching: Cut up cardboard boxes and use them as a weed barrier in your garden or as mulch around plants. Cardboard breaks down slowly, providing a weed-free and moisture-retaining layer.


In conclusion, wet cardboard should not be recycled due to its weakened quality, contamination risk, and additional processing requirements. However, dry cardboard is highly recyclable and can go through a multi-step process to be transformed into new cardboard boxes or paper products. If you find yourself with wet cardboard, consider composting it or exploring creative ways to reuse or repurpose it. By practicing responsible waste management, we can contribute to a more sustainable future.

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