The Definitive Guide to Cardboard Recycling


OCC recycling, or cardboard recycling, is broadly defined as the use of condensed packing of large quantities of a given material. Cardboard is the baseline for this particular type of recycling because it is so common in the distribution and manufacturing industries. This product is recycled into a form that can be reused by businesses, and this effectively reduces the business' emissions of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the air. 

Cardboard Recycling: Best Practices

CARDBOARD1Recycling is a standard part of many business operations. The basic idea of recycling is practically taken for granted because of the sheer volume processed through industrial facilities on a daily basis. The question of how and where to store recyclables in a facility is primarily a question of quantity. There are different sizes of containers available for temporarily storing cardboard waste until it can be recycled. The decision is straightforward, because there are best practices available. Business owners can refer to these standards in order to determine the best method for dealing with it. The available options can be ordered based on the quantity of materials that the business expects to process. There are high and low volume options, and the business manager must decide how much space is available for the unit. 

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The three main containers for storing recyclable cardboard are: 

• Dumpster

What Managers Need to Know

Business owners and operations managers are likely to come across specific terminology related to waste cardboard. The best way to make any major decision about this material is to understand the different aspects of it that are commonly found in the recycling industry. Once the decision maker has this information available, it is easier to determine the best method of handling the materials on a daily basis. The most important item to consider is the amount of waste product that will be moving through the facility. The dumpster, compactor and baler options reflect an increasing quantity of recyclable material. 

The dumpster will meet the needs of businesses with the lowest quantity of recyclable product, for example. The baler will address the needs of larger businesses that move through high volumes at regular intervals. The compactors will meet the needs of businesses that are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Additionally, there are different sizes of compactors and balers, and they will need to fit the specifications of each particular situation. Operations managers should perform a complete assessment of the size and space requirements for their recycling unit well in advance of making the purchasing or leasing decision. 

In general, dumpsters can be used any time a business has a limited need for waste storage prior to the trash pickup services performed by the city employees. The dumpster has a limited amount of space available. The next level up from there is the compacter. There are several types of compactors, and they all function in a manner similar to the dumpster; however, they are capable of handling more waste material, and this reduces the total number of trash pick-ups that will be necessary. Compactors are more versatile than dumpsters and there are several different types to choose from. Quantity of waste material is usually the deciding factor for business managers who are thinking about purchasing either a dumpster or a compacter. However, the location of the unit is also an important consideration.


Cardboard baler units allow businesses to dispose of large quantities of recyclable materials. Selecting the right baled cardboard machine is an important consideration for business owners or operations managers. Once the final decision on the size and weight capacity of the machine is made, there will need to be a comparison done on the different baled cardboard pricing options. By understanding the various options available, managers and other decision makers can come to a satisfactory arrangement for the disposal of their waste materials. The ability to recycle this product is a primary consideration for many businesses in a period where reducing the amount of the business’s carbon footprint can become public information almost immediately. 

There are several options available, but the baler is usually the priority for businesses that have to deal with large quantities of waste product on a regular basis. The baled OCC process is relatively straightforward and easy to understand. The recycled material will be packaged into a new form, but it must be clean and free from additional debris, contaminants, adhesive materials or food residues. Once the cardboard is separated from all of these additional items, the baler will compress the materials into a tight, compacted form. These are called bales, and they can be made out of whatever material the baler was designed to handle. Once these bales are produced, they go through a process called re-pulping. They will be screened by a ragger, and magnets will be used to remove any metallic items like staples or straps. Any additional contaminants will move to the top of the bale for removal. This is a profitable way to dispose of a variety of materials because these bales are highly valuable in several different industries. 

Here are some relevant terms and concepts to consider: 

  • Types of balers: Horizontal and vertical balers offer businesses two options for packaging this material. 
  • Maintenance and repairs: Balers will be provided by a particular company, and they will offer specific terms and conditions for the maintenance and repair of their equipment. This is essential information that every operations manager needs to know in order to assess the situation and make a decision. 
  • Costs of using the baler often outweigh the costs of allowing the material to remain in the dumpster in an uncompressed state. These costs are relative to the specific size and needs of the business, so operations managers or other decision makers will need to weight the potential costs and benefits of using a baler for this purpose. 


Recycling Benefits for Companies

Companies that produce a lot of waste material have to deal with this product in one form or another. Baling becomes a viable option when it saves the company money on storage or removal of this product. Large volume packaging of cardboard, glass or aluminum products reduces the number of trips that must be performed in order to remove these items from the premises. The savings on fuel costs alone contribute to the overall benefits of using a recycling baler. It also has an indirect effect on the local economy. Once the system for recycling glass or fiber products is in place, there will be an increase in the local manufacturing or consumption of these products. The business can also sell some of their baled product to recycling centers, which also offsets the costs involved in purchasing or leasing the baler. When the baler is used in this manner, the unit becomes more of an investment to the company and less of an expense. 

There are other potential benefits that are not monetary as well, and the operations manager should consider the value of these intangible benefits in addition to the possible monetary savings. For example, companies that perform recycling on their premises might gain an advertising benefit as consumers become more conscious of the processes used at manufacturing or distribution facilities. This group of consumers will often make significant purchasing decisions that reflect their personal values. If the company can produce evidence of their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint through best recycling practices, these customers will not only be more likely to do business with the company, but they are also more likely to refer their professional network as well. 

Weighing Costs and Benefits

There are serious benefits for managers who are considering using a cardboard baler as a part of a comprehensive cardboard recycling program. Baled cardboard pricing is one of the most significant decisions relating to baled cardboard. An OCC baler can be purchased or lease from a third party, for example. 

The decision to purchase the recycling machine will usually be made according to the following criteria: 

  1. 1. Length of time for the expected use of the cardboard recycling unit. If the business has a lot of product turnaround, it makes more sense to purchase a cardboard baler. However, if this is an occasional expense, then a rental unit might make more sense. 

    2. Each baled cardboard pricing scheme also depends on the size of the unit and how much space is available at the business location. Businesses will often meet their specific needs through an analysis of the size of the OCC baler as well as the weight and total space available for storing the unit. 

    3. Examples of weight for both loose and baled materials can provide operations managers with information that is useful when making purchasing or leasing decisions about recycling units. For example, 50 pounds of loose cardboard per container could increase to around 600 pounds when the material is baled. 

    4. If the business is moving through a lot of cardboard product, it makes sense to invest in a baler for this purpose. However, other space and size requirements must also be considered. For example, the vertical balers can go up to 80 inches in width, and the standard baler size is around 48 inches from the ground. The smallest size for a baler is typically around 26 inches from the ground. Each company may offer a slightly different inventory of balers, so make sure to measure the space where the unit will be stored before making this determination. 

    5. The size of the baler is an important consideration to make, but decision makers should also be aware of the fact that it should not require any manual labor to place the materials into the baler. For example, it should never be necessary to break down the cardboard boxes before loading them into the baler. 

    6. Cardboard is the most common material used for this type of recycling, but businesses might also need a separate unit for baling glass, newspaper, steel cans or other containers. 

    7. In addition to the space requirements for the baled cardboard unit, managers also need to allocate additional space for the occasional maintenance of the unit as well as the ceiling height. The vertical movement of the cylinder requires additional clearance well past the resting height of the machine. 

Additional Benefits

cardboard3Some of the benefits are not immediately obvious, and they can tip the balance during the decision-making process. For example:

  • Identifying excessive waste: The act of recycling cardboard can often help managers of manufacturing or distribution companies identify the location of a point during the production process where excessive waste is occurring. This could be as far down the line from the recycling point as the initial purchasing decisions. Once the area of waste has been identified, it becomes possible to take steps to eliminate that particular wasteful step from the line of production. However, it is harder to identify such a point of weakness in the production line without a clear signal. 
  • Savings in fuel costs
  • Increased positive public image of the company.

Operations Managers and Recycling

Decision makers and operations managers must weigh different types of benefits against the costs of obtaining the recycling unit in order to make the right decision for their business. The recycling area is the perfect place to observe signs the particular signs that show up only later in the production process. In many cases, the costs of the recycling unit can be recovered over time.