What does "biodegradable boxes" even mean?
adjective (of a substance or object) capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.
Ex. "consumers have forced a shift to more biodegradable products"
The term biodegradable has become quite popular in our culture lately, with products like disposable coffee cups and even toothbrushes claiming to be biodegradable. But what does biodegradable even mean? What do these products degrade into, and why would you want them to? In this article, we’ll explore the basics of what it means for something to be biodegradable so that you can make informed decisions about what you put in your garbage bin and compost pile.
Corrugated Boxes Are Biodegradable
Corrugated boxes aren’t all biodegradable, and even all aren't recyclable. If your shipping box includes a wax coating or protective films, this will protect the cardboard from breaking down and they won't biodegrade. Custom Boxes cardboard boxes are made without those films or waxes, and are in fact biodegradable. Because they are made from wood pulp and other materials, they can be recycled with paper at your local recycling facility.
Materials Used to Make Corrugated Boxes
In general, paper products like corrugate cardboard are made from wood pulp, which is a biodegradable substance. However, when companies are required to say that their boxes are biodegradable they aren’t necessarily referring to wood pulp; rather, they might be using a plant-based material like cornstarch or sugarcane as their main source of raw materials. Some of these materials may not provide the same strength as traditional corrugate cardboard, so look into container weight limits and recommendations before choosing.
Benefits of Biodegradability
Biodegradability is important because it protects our environment. Shipping containers are used to move millions of products daily, and an estimated 12 million boxes reach landfills every year in North America alone. While these boxes may be recyclable, they don’t readily decompose in a landfill environment. By recycling and reusing your shipping boxes, you're keeping potentially compostable material from wasting in a landfill.
How Fast Do Corrugated Boxes Decompose?
Some paper products are labeled biodegradable, which is a term that means they will break down into smaller parts when exposed to moisture and outdoor bacteria. But, just because something is labeled biodegradable doesn’t mean it actually will decompose quickly. Some biodegradable materials can still take decades to a century to break down entirely.
The more light, moisture, heat and bacteria that corrugated board is exposed to, the faster it will decompose. Cardboard that finds its way to a dark, oxygen-poor environment like a landfill can take years or decades to decompose. Meanwhile, when a corrugated board is shredded, soaked in water and used as garden mulch, it begins decomposing almost immediately and will be gone within just a few months.