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Is it better to recycle or compost cardboard? Which one is better?

A common question asked by every individual is if it is better to recycle or compost cardboard. Cardboard is an everyday material found in various forms, from cereal boxes to ice cream containers. With an increasing focus on environmental sustainability, many people are searching for eco-friendly ways to dispose of their used cardboard. Two popular options are recycling and composting.

Let’s discuss bulk cardboard recycling, the compostability of various cardboard products, and how to shred cardboard for composting.

Bulk Cardboard Recycling

Bulk cardboard recycling is collecting and processing large quantities of cardboard waste into new products. Recycling cardboard has numerous benefits, such as conserving resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and decreasing the amount of waste sent to landfills. Cardboard is a renewable resource, as it is made from wood pulp, which can be replenished through responsible forestry practices. As a result, recycling cardboard helps to preserve our planet’s natural resources for future generations.

Are Cereal Boxes Compostable? What About Ice Cream Containers?

One common question regarding cardboard disposal is whether cereal boxes and ice cream containers can be composted. In general, most cardboard products, including cereal boxes, are compostable. They are made primarily from paper fibres, which are biodegradable and can break down naturally in a compost pile.

However, ice cream containers may not be as easily compostable. Many ice cream containers have a thin plastic or wax coating layer to prevent leakage and maintain the product’s freshness. This coating can make the containers non-compostable, as it does not break down easily in a compost pile. To compost such containers, you must remove the plastic or wax coating or choose containers marked explicitly as compostable.

How to Shred Cardboard for Composting?

If you decide to compost your cardboard, shredding it into smaller pieces will help speed up the decomposition process.

Follow these steps to shred cardboard for composting:

  • Remove any tape, staples, or labels from the cardboard, as these materials do not break down in compost and can introduce contaminants.
  • Cut the cardboard into smaller pieces using a box cutter or scissors. The smaller the pieces, the faster they decompose in the compost pile.
  • For an even finer shred, you can use a paper shredder, provided it can handle the thickness of the cardboard.
  • Moisten the shredded cardboard before adding it to your compost pile, as this will help facilitate decomposition.


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Cardboard: Renewable and Biodegradable

Cardboard is a renewable and biodegradable material, making it an excellent candidate for recycling and composting. Its renewable nature means it can be replenished through sustainable forestry practices, ensuring a continuous supply for future generations. As a biodegradable material, cardboard breaks down naturally in the environment, reducing its overall impact on the planet.

Composting vs Recycling: Which Is Better for Cardboard?


The decision to compost or recycle cardboard depends on various factors, such as the type of cardboard, the availability of recycling facilities, and personal preferences. Both methods have their advantages and drawbacks:


Composting cardboard helps reduce waste in landfills and provides nutrient-rich organic matter for gardens and landscapes. However, not all types of cardboard are suitable for composting, and the process can be more time-consuming.


  1. Enriches soil: Composting cardboard adds essential nutrients to the soil, promoting plant growth and enhancing soil structure.
  2. Reduces landfill waste: Composting diverts organic waste from landfills, reducing methane emissions and conserving landfill space.
  3. Local solution: Composting can be done at home, reducing the need for transportation and fuel consumption.
  4. Low-tech and accessible: Composting is a simple, low-cost method that can be easily adopted by anyone.


  1. Limited materials: Not all cardboard can be composted, especially those treated with chemicals, waxes, or plastic coatings.
  2. Time-consuming: Composting takes longer to break down cardboard compared to recycling, which could be a concern for those with limited space.
  3. Potential pests: Composting may attract pests if not properly managed, posing health and hygiene risks.


Recycling cardboard conserves resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It can also be more convenient, as many communities have curbside recycling programs. However, recycling requires energy and water to process the materials, which can have environmental impacts.


  1. Resource conservation: Recycling cardboard saves raw materials such as trees and water, reducing the need for deforestation.
  2. Energy efficiency: Manufacturing new products from recycled cardboard requires less energy than producing them from raw materials.
  3. Reduces greenhouse gas emissions: Recycling reduces the amount of waste in landfills, lowering the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
  4. Economic benefits: Recycling industries create jobs and contribute to local economies.


  1. Transportation: Recycling requires collection and transportation to processing facilities, consuming fuel and generating emissions.
  2. Contamination: Improper sorting or contamination by non-recyclable materials can lead to entire batches being discarded, negating the environmental benefits.
  3. Limited recycling infrastructure: In some areas, recycling facilities may be insufficient or non-existent, making it less practical than composting.


Deciding whether to recycle or compost cardboard is a personal decision based on factors such as the type of cardboard, available resources, and individual preferences. Both methods offer environmental benefits, such as reducing landfill waste, conserving resources, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. By considering the information in this article and weighing the pros and cons of each method, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your values and contributes to a greener future.

Remember to check the compostability of specific cardboard products, like cereal boxes and ice cream containers, and follow proper shredding techniques for composting. By making eco-conscious choices daily, we can all contribute to preserving our planet’s natural resources and promoting sustainability.

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