A look at how recycled cardboard makes the transition from pulp to recycled boxes
Recycled paper image by H005, 2009.
Let’s get this straight: half of Britain’s cardboard boxes is made of recycled material. That’s right: the cardboard box you may be looking could well be a descendant of several cardboard boxes and newspapers. Your last supermarket splurge could have come in a box which is the product of several Sunday Mirrors or the last box of cereal you have bought.
Statistics state that one in two of the UK’s cardboard boxes is recycled in 49 of our country’s paper mills. Like ours for example. In the home, we dispose of our cardboard boxes and place them in a recycling bin for collection. Typically seen in blue bins and collected on a fortnightly basis, this is the last we see of them.
We think not. In many cases, there is no such thing as a brand new cardboard box. The Corn Flakes box you placed in the blue bin on Monday may be part of another box six months later.
The recycling process of a cardboard box
1: Kerbside collection: your local authority organises kerbside collection facilities. This not only includes the blue bins you present each morning. It also includes recycling points at local supermarkets or your nearest recycling centre. In public places, litter bins have separate slots for paper and general waste. Some of them also have slots for plastic bottles.
2: Storage: the paper, sent for recycling is sent to a paper mill or a nearby recycling facility. In our case, this also includes the GMWDA (Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority) facilities at Bredbury, Dean Lane, and Northenden. We at Romiley Board Mill deal with the cardboard that has been gathered.
3: Pulping and decontamination: all the inks and other coatings are washed in preparation for pulping in a pulper. This is known as de-inking, where all the ink fibres are washed off the boxes with warm water and chemicals. Via floatation cells, soap and air is used to form a froth which lifts the ink particles to the surface for removal.
4: Drying and sludge removal: we see the pulp being washed over fine screens. The sludge is removed, pressed, purified, and disposed of as bio-products. Some of the residues become compost or turned into biomass briquettes.
5: From cardboard to fresh paper: here’s the point where last month’s Sunday Mirror becomes next week’s edition. A calendar stack irons out the recycled cardboard and turns it into paper rolls. Some become newsprint or fresh cardboard boxes.
6: Measurement: the newly recycled paper and cardboard are measured and cut using computers. All measurements are consistent with client requirements.
7: Wrapped for dispatch: our finished product is wrapped and ready for dispatch. This is stored in a finished goods warehouse awaiting potential customers.
8: Finished products: the chain is virtually complete once you call into the supermarket for your Corn Flakes or the latest edition of the Sunday Mirror. You may choose to dispose of the newspaper’s colour magazine which will take us back to the beginning.
Present statistics show that 89.4% of the UK’s paper is recycled. It also has the highest waste arisings, standing at 3.9 million tonnes. Glass is a distant second at 68.3%. Both figures are well ahead of the European Union’s target rates of 60%.
For several years, we at Romiley Board Mill have contributed to this figure. A pat on the back is long overdue.