As people rely more on internet shopping, we’ve seen an influx of cardboard boxes in the valley and they come full of a variety of protective packaging material. Also, as the holiday season has arrived, many of us need a reminder of what materials are accepted by the Recycling Center at Teton County’s Transfer Station. This month’s focus is on cleaning up our cardboard to make it a more valuable commodity.
Clean Corrugated Cardboard Only: The only type of cardboard that is actually recycled in our county is corrugated cardboard (identifiable by the three layers of cardboard with the wavy middle layer) used to make shipping boxes and a variety of smaller items. Our Recycling Center will accept any color or shape of flattened cardboard, but they need to be small enough to fit in the baler (2’ x 4’ is ideal.)
Please do not contaminate it with any of the following which CANNOT be recycled:
- Brown or white packing paper found in these boxes
- Any plastic wrap or plastic packaging (plastic film and popped bubble wrap can be recycled at Broulim’s or in Jackson)
- Brown paper bags
- Gray board or paperboard (from cereal boxes, etc.) – see below
- Waxy cardboard
- Food contaminated cardboard (e.g. greasy pizza boxes)
- Gift wrap from your holiday presents
- Wet or snow-caked cardboard
Please be sure your cardboard boxes are:
- Collapsed flat
- Clean (as clean as possible) – labels, tape and a few staples are ok, but minimize
- Ideally smaller than 2 ft. by 4 ft. so they can easily fit in the baler
RAD Curbside clients get feedback from their recycling pickup. If the item is unacceptable in our county, it will be left in your bin. Please be sure you follow the guidelines above and flatten your boxes.
Commercial pick up clients seem to have two big challenges: illegal dumping in their cardboard bins and dumping of plastic-wrapped cardboard from delivery drivers who don’t live here. Local employees do a good job of keeping their cardboard clean and may need to reach out to educate delivery drivers. The locks available for the cardboard recycling dumpsters go a long way to keep people from dumping a load of trash in your bin.
Self-haulers bring a lot of cardboard boxes to the Transfer Station, often “contaminated” with gray board, brown packing paper, and plastic wrap. Please throw all of these items in the trash. They are not recyclable. Some alternatives to keep this stuff out of the landfill include using brown packing paper or brown bags to start a fire in a wood stove or turning it into simple gift wrap for holiday gifts. Brown bags also make good school book covers just like in the old days.
Gray board is something everyone really wants to recycle because so many products come packaged in it, including most snack foods, cereals, beer, etc. Sadly, it is a worthless commodity. The current solution for our county is to collect and bale gray board from self-haulers to keep it out of the cardboard stream. These bales are then placed on-site around the Transfer Station property serving as barriers and marking roadways. It’s not true recycling, but it is reusing your gray board, keeping it out of the landfill and saving a lot in transportation cost. It also means the county doesn’t need to buy concrete barriers. Kind of a novel solution. (Sorry curbside folks, RAD won’t pick up this junk product from you, but they do take your plastic film, aluminum foil and pie plates, which they generously deliver to Jackson periodically since we don’t accept it here.)
The bottom line on gray board is, we don’t care if you throw it in the trash or put it in the clearly marked gray board bins at the recycling center, but please, please do not throw it in with corrugated cardboard and contaminate the load. Better yet, try to avoid buying too many items boxed in gray board now that you know this stuff can’t really be recycled.
Thank you for recycling your cardboard. It saves a lot of energy (25% of what is used to make cardboard from virgin material) and a lot of landfill space (3-9 cubic yards per ton of cardboard by some estimates.)
Cardboard, like newspaper is a recycling success story. Today over 90 percent of all products in the U.S. are shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes. Encouragingly, 70 percent of all corrugated cardboard is recovered for recycling-making it the largest source of waste paper collected for recycling.
Cardboard Recycling Facts… (Source: American Forest & Paper Association)
- Corrugated cardboard is often made of recycled content and almost always made of post-consumer material.
- Corrugated cardboard is more environmentally friendly than ever before. It can accept non-toxic water-based inks and also be processed without bleaching.
- Even raw materials used to make corrugated cardboard-including lumber industry byproducts such as sawdust and wood chips-are renewable resources.
- Corrugated cardboard manufactured from recycled pulp uses about 75% of the energy used in the manufacture of corrugated cardboard made from virgin pulp.
- Corrugated packaging is a $17 billion per-year industry-the largest segment of the entire packaging industry.
Contamination found in the cardboard recycling stream at the Teton County, Idaho Transfer Station including plastic bags, plastic wrap, garbage, gray board, brown packing paper.