Is Cardboard Biodegradable?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: October 22, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

You may have realized that many businesses are switching from plastic to cardboard packaging. There must be a reason for this.

Of course, global warming cases are striking each day, raising the alarm about our environment. That said, there’s a need to adopt more sustainable options.

 More and more potential customers are turning away from environmentally harmful practices. Today, they prefer companies that take eco-friendly and greener steps.

 With the use of cardboard becoming the best alternative, there are raging questions that need clarity. So, is cardboard biodegradable? How sustainable are cardboard boxes?

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Is Cardboard Biodegradable?

Cardboard is 100 percent biodegradable. It will decompose or break down naturally. Factors such as water, soil, air, microorganism, and sunlight are responsible for breaking it down at ease.

That way, you can throw it in the landfill with peace in mind that it won’t harm the environment.

After it degrades, it can function as compost for other organic materials. Companies are using cardboard materials to pack and ship products. On the broader market, it has proven to be the best greener solution.

Even better, cardboard boxes are miles better than biodegradable plastic bags. While you can argue that both are safe for environments, it’s not always the case in all aspects.

Cardboard is recyclable, making it a quick-win solution. Quite a several fashion brands have pledged to eliminate plastic use in the next few years.

How Long Does it Take for Cardboard Materials to Decompose?

The rate at which cardboard decomposes depends on the decisive factors. Some may take months and others years. They include:

 Type of cardboard.

Take, for example, processed cardboard-like milk and juice cartons. These are generally coated and sealed with wax to form a membrane barrier, ensuring no leakages.

Given about 3 years, these substances will decompose. The only thing that will prolong the process is their water resistance. On the other hand, corrugated cardboards are susceptible to quick decomposition.

 Surrounding environment

Things like heat, moisture, the soil will impact the breakdown process. Varying environment conditions have the upper hand when it comes to paper and cardboard.

Decomposition thrives in wetter areas. If you place your boxes in moist soil, then the decomposition will take place more quickly than before.

 State of the Cardboard

Everyone would want the process to happen faster. Shredding and ripping the cardboard into pieces will fasten the decomposition life.

Should you mix them with soil, they will decompose in the shortest time possible. The better!

Is Cardboard Environmentally Friendly?

Well, the fact that some cardboards are recyclable means they are environmentally friendly.

Presently, plenty of machines and techniques to handle the cardboard recycling process are available.

These have made the entire process of cardboard recycling to be effortless.

By the way, some quarters refer to cardboard as a sustainable and green material to depict how environmentally friendly it is.

Cardboard falls into these three categories;

· It is recyclable

· It is ecological

· It is reusable

Cardboard boasts plenty of environmental benefits.

Whether you utilize it in the form of paperboard or corrugated fiberboard, cardboard is 100 percent recyclable. It doesn’t cause any form of wastage.

Mainly it comes in handy in the packaging industry when creating support pads, bags, and boxes.

Many people prefer plastic as the latter is unrecyclable and bad for the environment.

Here are some of the environmental benefits of cardboard;

1. Cardboard boxes can be used and reused repeatedly by product manufacturers that do not allow them to increase wastage and harm our environment.

2. You can utilize various DIY techniques to ensure their cardboard remains valuable and recyclable. It can be magical in creating innovative and unique DIY projects such as cardboard pet houses and playhouses for children.

3. It is a natural material whose sources are renewable resources.

4. You can use it in combination with other pocket-friendly materials then enhanced thermal insulation to reduce annual energy expenses by more than 80 percent.

5. Cardboard boasts identical properties to wood. It also goes by the name of anisotropic material, implying you can utilize it directly without any harm or risk of wellbeing.

Does Cardboard Decompose In Landfill?

Yes, cardboard can decompose inside a landfill. The decomposition process can take anywhere between months to years, depending on an array of factors.

For starters, the time taken can vary depending on how wet or thick the conditions are.

Decomposition in landfills can also be affected by laminates or coatings found on cardboard.

How Long Does a Cardboard Take To Decompose?

In the previous section, we have noted that cardboard takes three months to decompose.

A cardboard’s decomposition rate inside a compost bin is faster than that which is disposed of in the general waste.

The reason that informs this is that microorganisms that reside inside the compost bin tend to speed up the decomposition process. They turn it into compost together with other organic matter within 4 – 6 months.

Again, it depends on the cardboard type that you want to decompose.

Can you recycle or compost cardboard?

Yes, cardboard is easily recyclable. However, keep the boxes and papers away from water, oil, and food. Avoiding this contamination makes your cardboard reusable. You can use it again and again. 

Not all types of cardboard are reusable. Some are treated – wax-coated and laminated cardboard find it hard to tear because natural pulp fibers in them won’t degrade. As a result, the recycling process won’t be an easy feat.

Is it recycling or composting? Which one is better and sustainable?


The effects of deforestation are breathtaking. It’s probably getting worse than ever. On the same, paper consumption is alarming around the globe, and companies are becoming more wasteful. There have been detrimental effects on this.

Most researchers think that recycling is a go-to solution. These people are presumably correct. It’s our mandate to protect our natural forest from any destruction.

Otherwise, this can result in CO2 emissions and biodiversity loss.

By recycling, we save more trees that we would have chopped down. This is encouraging. As a wise person, you should see even the other side of the coin – not 100 percent environmentally friendly.

The fact remains that recycling plants are the most significant contributors to water pollution. In the US, each sheet requires at least 10 liters of water during production. Plus, a mixture of chemicals.

The waste, which, by now, contains toxic substances, heads to the streams. It’s wiped and pushed into the river source during the rainy season. Can you imagine this is the same water we drink!


Cardboard is compostable simply because it comes from natural materials. Compost means – made by decomposing materials (organic), leaving no hazardous toxins.

It would be even better if you add unbleached cardboard to the heap. It adds balance and value. The compost manure can become more of a fertilizer that adds nutrients to our farms.

Not to mention, the composting process reduces emissions as compared to recycling. The most common pollutants include:

  • Chemicals in use
  • The machinery
  • Trucks transporting the waste product
  • Recycling plant

It’s no surprise that composting is exceptional. To some extent, it’s better than recycling. Nevertheless, it will encourage cutting down of trees by companies for consistent production of cardboard. This is worse for our environment at large. So, recycling wins here.

Every option has its benefits and downsides. Some of the soiled paper-based materials that ought to be composted are;

Is Cardboard Good For Soil?

Yes, generally, cardboard is good for the soil.

When you think about it, cardboard is a form of paper coming from trees, a natural source. As a natural source, it breaks down and discharges carbon into the soil.

It is worth noting that garden upcycling with cardboard brings with it an array of other benefits. For instance, you can utilize it as planters to start your garden path, mulch a prepared bed, begin a new mattress, etc.

As I have insisted throughout this primer, the cardboard type determines many things, including how you’ll utilize it in your landscape.

Cardboards that aren’t heavily printed have no tape, are unwaxed, and do not feature shiny finishes are considered clean or okay to use.

Garden upcycling with cardboard will not only repurpose your reuse but also help in many other ways.

A common and incredible cardboard garden idea is to utilize it to create a new bed. Such a bed goes by the name sheet mulching.

In such a situation, it does not matter if your area has grass or weeds.

However, you need to get rid of big rocks and other items that you wouldn’t desire within a planting space.

Advantages of Cardboards for the Environment

Cardboard packaging comes with numerous advantages for the environment. People see it as a fantastic substitute for plastic, metals among others.

  • Biodegradable and recyclable. Cardboards degrade within no time. Corrugated ones will decompose entirely in less than a year. In wet areas, decomposition will accelerate more.
  • It has the most negligible environmental impact. The material reduces up to 70 percent of oil emissions and carbon (IV) oxide than plastic.
  • It minimizes waste generation. Recycling eliminates the waste in your bin. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
  • It retains its purity and durability properties. Even if you recycle cardboard many times, it won’t lose quality and resistance.
  • Saves energy and resources.

Final Thoughts

Under truly sterile conditions, the cardboard will degrade quickly than other materials. The presence of moisture, heat, and microorganisms helps it to break down at ease. You can as well decide to shred it into pieces to boost the biodegradation process.

Another alternative is to recycle or compost the material. Either way, you won’t go wrong. Hopefully, there will be more sustainable and greener options soon.

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