Carton Box Recycling: Can you Recycle a Carton Box?

Used and discarded carton box packaging to be recycled
Used and discarded carton box packaging to be recycled

Can you recycle a carton box? Carton box recycling is a major topic of debate today. This is particularly with the surge of online shopping and the increased number of cartons being used and disposed of every day. We gathered all the facts about recycling carton boxes for you, so you can make an informed decision about your packaging material.

Carton Box Recycling

Carton box recycling, like any other type of recycling, would involve breaking down the carton box and using the material to make new cartons or other paper products. Recycling materials aims to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills, by reusing that would otherwise be thrown away.

Recycling paper also serves to help the environment by reducing pollution and saving trees, since making new products from recycled materials requires less energy than making them from scratch. With that said, are carton boxes recyclable?

Carton box recycling machine
Carton box recycling machine

Can you Recycle Cartons?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes! You can recycle carton boxes. Carton boxes are made from paperboard, which is a type of strong and stiff paper made from wood chips or recycled paper.

Paperboard is recyclable. This is usually done at a waste carton recycling plant where used boxes are taken to be made into new boxes or other paper products. Here are some facts about paperboard packaging from EPA that you may be interested in:

  • In 2018 about 41.9 million tons of paperboard packaging was produced in the U.S.
  • Approximately 80.9% of all paperboard packaging produced is recycled.
  • Of the remaining waste, 3.7 percent was combusted for energy, while 15.4 ended in landfills.

Carton Recycling Process

The carton recycling process starts with the collection of used cartons. Once the used cartons have been collected, they are then sent to a waste carton box recycling plant. At the plant, here is what happens.

  • The cartons are sent to a recycling machine where they are turned into pulp and the fibers separated.
  • The mixture is then bleached using various chemicals.
  • The fibers pass through a screening and cleaning process to remove any contaminants.
  • The mixture is washed to ensure any remaining ink gets removed.
  • The pulp is then pressed into new paperboard.
  • The newly made paperboard is then shipped (in rolls) to the carton box manufacturer.

The recycled paper material may also be sent to other paper companies to make other products. Recycled cartons may be used to package a variety of different products, just like those made from wood pulp paperboard. And that’s the carton recycling process in a nutshell!

Recycled Carton Board Quality

The quality of recycled carton board depends on how the paper was originally manufactured. It also matters the kind of products that were used during the manufacturing process. So recycled paperboard is usually graded to account for these variations.

When carton board cannot be safely recycled, say when it has been contaminated, it’s often composted. This type of carton box recycling method is also called organic recycling. It produces organic compost for the agricultural industry.

Waste carton box recycling plant
Waste carton box recycling plant

Carton Box Recycling FAQs

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, carton box recycling is a major topic of debate. Many people have questions about the process, and we’re here to answer some of the most commonly asked ones. Here are some frequently asked questions about recycling carton boxes.

Q1. How Many Times Can a Carton Box be Recycled?

A. Carton boxes can technically be recycled up to a maximum number of times. Cardboard is said to be recyclable up to 7 times. However, recent research shows that most carton board can be recycled up to 25 times without becoming weak. The amount of times that a carton box paper can be recycled depends on several factors such as:

  • If the carton board was bleached or not
  • If the fibers are long or short
  • The initial method used to separate the fibers
  • The types of materials used to make the carton, including ink, plastic film, coatings, glue, and resins

Q2. Can you Recycle Egg Cartons?

A. Yes, but only if they are made from recycled material such as paper. Recycling egg cartons made from recycled paper is just as easy as recycling cartons or any other type of paper product. If your egg cartons are made from a type of non-recyclable material, they will need to be thrown away in the trash.

Q3. Can you Recycle Milk Cartons?

A. Definitely! Milk cartons are made from paper and, therefore, can be recycled. Before recycling milk cartons, the paperboard is first separated from the plastic or aluminum material. After that, the paper is recycled the usual way.

Q4. Can you Recycle Juice Cartons?

A. Yes, juice cartons are easily recycled to create new products. But just like milk cartons, the inner plastic lining needs to be removed first. Once removed, the rest of the carton can be recycled like any other paper product.

Q5. Can you Recycle Ice Cream Cartons?

A. Ice cream cartons can be recycled, but only after removing the plastic lid and liner. The paperboard portion of the ice cream carton can be recycled by separating the fibers and producing pulp.

Q6. Can you Recycle Pizza Boxes?

A. Pizza cartons are made from paperboard, which makes them recyclable. But while technically you can recycle a pizza box, it’s often held that food contamination makes that difficult. A recent study, however, refutes these claims with findings indicating that even food-contaminated pizza cartons are recyclable.


Carton box recycling is a great way to reduce waste and help the environment. However, it is important to know what type of carton box you have and how to properly recycle it. We hope this article has answered all of your questions about recycling carton boxes. Remember, when in doubt, you can always check with your local recycling center to see if they accept the type of carton box you have.

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