Most moving boxes are recyclable, but it all depends on what the boxes are made of and what they contain.
Clean cardboard moving boxes (such as those that are dry and not covered with food waste) are recyclable as long as they don’t have plastic wrap inside. Plastic and wooden boxes are also recyclable.
When materials are mixed, for example when moving boxes contain a thin protective layer of plastic inside, things can get complicated.
Do I have to remove the packaging tape before I can recycle moving boxes?
Font and ink labels are fine, but most packaging tapes are not recyclable. Whether your local recycling facility can take care of removing tape from the recycling stream varies.
You usually don’t have to remove the tape from your box before recycling it, as the recycling machines will filter it out. But it’s best to check with your recycler to be absolutely sure. Wish cycling is never a good idea.
How to recycle cardboard boxes
The most common moving boxes are made from corrugated cardboard, a strong and durable material made up of several layers of cardboard. They are strong, durable and can be easily recycled after use. Most municipal roadside collection recycling programs in the United States accept cardboard boxes.
During the recycling process, the fibers of the corrugated cardboard are separated and bleached using a technique called repulping. Once broken down into its raw fibers, the material can be made into new products, including other moving boxes.
While many recyclers won’t require you to remove the tape from your boxes before throwing them in the trash can, most will require you to disassemble each box before picking it up. By dismantling the boxes, the material becomes less bulky, so that you can handle it more easily and stow more recyclables on your truck.
If you don’t have roadside recycling in your city, call your local municipal waste company to determine what next steps to take. There are several recycling companies across the country that will accept cardboard as long as it is clean and dry. Wet cardboard can pollute recyclable materials and clog machines, which is why most recyclers do not accept them.
Some boxes, especially those that contain food or other organic materials, have a thin layer of polyethylene plastic underneath the box. You’ve likely seen this combo in takeaway boxes and disposable coffee mugs. Plastic and cardboard are difficult to separate, which makes these products non-recyclable.
How to Recycle Plastic Containers
If you put your things in plastic buckets, you can move them from A to B. If the trash cans you use are made entirely of plastic, they are recyclable. Most roadside collection recycling programs will accept them. Check with your local recycling program to be on the safe side.
Plastic containers must be clean and dry before recycling. Waste and moisture could pollute them and prevent them from being properly sorted and recycled.
Can you recycle wooden boxes?
While wooden boxes are natural, most roadside collection recycling programs will not accept them. The good news is that wooden boxes are very durable and dynamic, so you can easily reuse them.
If you cannot reuse or pass on your wooden boxes, you can break them down into individual pieces of wood and take them to a suitable disposal point. Find a wood recycler near you online. And most of the time, your local recycling store will take the wood off your hands.
Opportunities to reuse moving boxes
Regardless of whether your moving boxes are made of cardboard, plastic, wood or foam, you can reuse them. Reusing your boxes until you can’t get them back is a much more environmentally friendly option than recycling or throwing them away immediately after use.
Share your boxes with friends, family members or neighbors who are on the go. Consider reaching out to local residents through social media – that way, people can use your boxes instead of buying brand new ones.