Old Corrugated Cardboard Recycling

Post-use corrugated packaging material is commonly known as “cardboard,", while it is typically referred to as OCC or Old Corrugated Cardboard/ Containers to industry insiders. Very  often, recycling and waste haulers use the term OCC in reference to cardboard. Corrugated cardboard can easily be recognized by its multiple layer structure; the fluted or wavy middle layer between sheets of paper keeps corrugated board light and gives it the strength to carry products.

Cardboard is a very useful packaging material for easy transportation of many different types of products. If OCC is kept dry and clean, recycling is straightforward as long as all non-paper materials such as bubble wrap, wood skids, plastic bags, plastic wrapping and Styrofoam are removed.

Corrugated Cardboard Production and Recycling Statistics

According to EPA, nearly 46 million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in 2011, translating into a recycling rate of around 66 percent. For OCC, the rate is a much more impressive 91 percent.

The size and type of business can have a strong bearing on OCC generation. Studies suggests that it can represent as much as 40 percent or more of solid waste in a retail establishment and 15 percent or more of solid waste generated in an office setting. Estimates suggest that a small convenience store generates between 700-1000 lbs. of OCC/month, while grocery stores/ supermarkets generate between 8-30tons of OCC/month, and department stores generate between 8-20 tons of OCC/month.

Benefits of OCC Recycling

There are a number of benefits to recycling OCC instead of discarding it. Recycling OCC conserves energy and water usage, while reducing the production of greenhouse gas and certain air pollutants like total reduced sulfur (TRS), volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants (HAP).

Recycling cardboard also reduces demand for virgin timber. It takes approximately three tons of trees to manufacture just one ton of virgin cardboard.  It helps reduce waste tipping fees as well. The recycling of one ton of cardboard saves more than nine cubic yards of landfill space.

Methods of Handling OCC

When it comes to handling OCC, the storage facility must be accessible to haulers. Before being placed in the storage containers, however, corrugated boxes should be opened and flattened and harmful contaminants must be removed.  This ensures better space utilization as well as material being ready for recycling. Once the contaminants are removed, handling OCC becomes as easy as putting the loose OCC into a container.

To bale or not to bale is an important decision in OCC recycling. For small businesses which generate comparatively small amount of OCC, bundling OCC manually, storing the loose OCC in a suitable container and having it collected by a hauler is ideal. On the other hand businesses which generate large amount of OCC should use large storage containers and compact or bale using an industrial baler for comfortable transportation of OCC to recycling centers.

 One emerging technology is the use of shredding in combination with compaction or baling to increase the density of material for transport.

Old Corrugated Cardboard Recycling Process

Recycling corrugated containers is straightforward. It involves diverting old cardboard from waste stream, the elimination of contaminants, and the flattening or compressing of material to promote ease of handling, storing, delivering the stock to a paper production mill or processor where it is processed into different paper products such as recycled paperboard, the center fluting of corrugated boxes, and as unbleached craft paperboard.

Selling OCC

Depending upon the amount of OCC generated, the selling relationship will vary. Large generators may deal directly with paper companies, while mid-level generators may deal with recycling companies, and very small generators may sell to smaller operators acting to aggregate material for sale.  No matter how much OCC is generated, it is important to recycle.

Guarding Against Theft

In recent years, there have been increased reports of cardboard or OCC theft, and steps can be taken to reduce the risk of OCC theft.

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