How Much Is Recycled Cardboard Worth

It’s not uncommon to find yourself with mountains and mountains of cardboard after you’ve just moved home, cleaned up your attic, or after the deliveries of your latest online shopping spree.

Now you find yourself in a position wondering how you can get rid of these boxes in the most efficient way possible, and your first thought is probably wondering how much you can get if you were to sell these boxes, correct?

The short answer: selling your cardboard to the recycling facility is probably not going to be worth the hassle.

Considering it’s so easy to recycle, what makes it so difficult to recycle cardboard?

Price For Old Cardboard

Bales of recycled cardboard ready to be sold

Cardboard, one of the most recycled commodities out there, is typically sold for around about $100 per ton.

They are usually sold in dry bales, which means it’s already sorted and compacted for easy transportation. When we bring cardboard to a collection point, they are most likely going to bale all collected cardboard before transportation everything to a recycling facility.

It costs recycling companies around about $20 per ton to process this cardboard to be recycled and reformulated into whatever it needs to be. In the end, after deducting the money they pay the old cardboard suppliers and processing costs, these companies are making around $5 profit per ton, depending on how the current raw material market is looking.

Of course, this doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re processing thousands and thousands of cardboard bales each day, it can really add up for these recycling companies.

Hence why they can stay in business.

Though from an individual’s point of view, you probably don’t have a (literal) ton of cardboard laying around your home, so how much would you expect to get for what you have leftover after a home move?

I looked it up for you.

An extra-large, double-walled cardboard box (24″x17″x17″ or 610x457x457mm) weighs around 2.2 lbs or 1 kg. So you would need 1,000 boxes to earn around $100. So driving to the recycling center with even 50 boxes would probably not even cover your gas.

If you’re sitting on a mountain of old cardboard boxes, it will be more interesting to sell them or to give them away for reuse.

Virgin Cardboard vs. Recycled Cardboard

Cat in repurposed cardboard box
Fact: cats don’t know the difference between virgin or recycled cardboard boxes

Funny enough, when selling your old cardboard boxes, there’s not much of a price difference between boxes made from recycled materials and boxes made from virgin resources. So no need to differentiate between these two.

There is no real quality difference between cardboard made from virgin materials or recycled materials. However the production process for virgin raw materials contains only 3 steps: logging, milling, and distribution. The production process using recycled materials contains several additional (and costly) steps, like collection, sorting, and cleaning.

Although the environmental benefits of using recycled materials are clear, the truth is that recycling often does not make sense from an economic point of view.

TopicVirgin FiberRecycled Paper
Trees24 trees0 trees
Energy26M BTUs13M BTUs
Greenhouse gases19,900 lbs
9,026 kg
4,310 lbs
1,954. kg
Water usage17,500 gallons
66,244 liters
11,900 gallons
45,046 liters
Solid waste410 lbs
185 kg
368 lbs
166 kg
Comparing 1 ton of corrugated cardboard using virgin fiber vs. recycled paper (source:

The only ways to influence is the price of recycled material is by 1. seeing an increased demand in recycled materials or 2. decreasing the cost of the recycling process (e.g. by government subsidies or significant technological advances).

What The Historical Data On Cardboard Shows

Prices are constantly changing in the cardboard world, some months they’re drastically up and other months they are drastically down, for whatever reason this may be.

This could impact your decision if you wanted to get rid of your own cardboard since at the time of you wanting to sell the prices could be pretty low.

This would then cause you to sit on these same cardboard boxes for a couple of months whilst you wait for prices to rise once again.

We’re not entirely sure if it’s worth having mountains of cardboard stacked up in your spare bedroom just so you can get a couple of more dollars for it when the prices start to boom again.

And in reality, you could be waiting months before these prices go back to something more attractive.

Of course, it all really is up to you.

Though, let’s delve a little deeper into what might be impacting the price of cardboard.

What Is Impacting The Price Of Recycled Cardboard?

Generally, what impacts the price is just the same with any market, supply and demand – so one of the huge reasons why cardboard could fall in price is simply because there is just that much of it in circulation.

The most recent price hike could be contributed to the growth of e-commerce business in 2020-2021. As the packaging demand from the industry grows, cardboard prices start soaring as well.

Price of cardboard over time

In recent times, there was a shortage of people selling their leftover cardboard to the recycling facilities, simply because they were not currently in business, so they had no cardboard to give away.

Which meant there was somewhat of a cardboard shortage, driving the prices sky-high.

But now as 2021 progresses, and things are getting back to normal, there are more businesses that are running once again.

Meaning there is more cardboard currently in circulation and the prices are falling once again.

Does The price Of Recycled Cardboard Really Matter?

Recycling bins

Sure, those who actually want to sell their cardboard, will fetch far less for their cardboard than if they were to sit on it for a couple of months. But even in the price would double, in would still require inhuman amounts of quality to make a decent profit.

In our opinion is the fact that the ‘price of cardboard’ is solely being looked at, not what the real reason behind recycling in the first place is; that it’s better for the planet and directly impacting the recycling industry.

When prices are low, people may hold onto their cardboard until better times (or in a worst case scenario, simply throw them away), which means these recycling facilities are receiving less cardboard.

This creates a problem because the people that need cardboard are either going to have to pay a lot more for their recycled cardboard or use an alternative method.

This alternative method of course is to buy virgin cardboard, which will be a lot cheaper for them but is ultimately worse than recycling for the planet as a whole.

We believe that the moment we start consuming, we have an obligation to make the lifecycle of these resources a long as possible by reusing, recycling, and making sure it does not end up next to the road or in a landfill.

Is It Worth It To Sell Your Cardboard?

At the end of the day, if you’ve got enough cardboard where businesses want to take it off your hands, and the market price is currently right for you, then selling your cardboard is a great option. However, let’s be realistic and acknowledge that – unless you’re a business – selling your old cardboard is not going to be a life-changer.

But this does not mean we are suggesting you just dump them in the trash, oh no, no-no.

You have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to getting rid of your cardboard boxes.

The alternative options to selling cardboard

As I mentioned, there are some other ways you can get rid of your cardboard that go beyond just selling it to a recycling company.

Here are a few of the best options:

  • Using your cardboard in your compost heap: this may seem like a strange one but just think about it: your cardboard is made up of one of the most common raw materials you could found out in the wild, which makes it a great addition to any compost heap, especially if you’re looking for more green materials to be a part of it.
  • Give your cardboard to your friends: your friends may be planning a move of their own or perhaps their child has a school project coming up, whatever the case maybe we would recommend asking around to see if anyone could use your cardboard instead.
  • Keep your cardboard: You may only have a couple of boxes to throw away, and in all honesty, you never know when you’re going to need them again. Keeping them will mean you’ve got them on hand whenever you’re desperately in need.


So we’ve found out that anyone can sell their cardboard if they really want to, although it may only be worth doing so if you’ve got tons of cardboard you want to get out of your home; though there are some alternative methods you can look to if you still really need to shift those boxes somewhere else.

On top of this, we’ve also touched on why cardboard prices are always fluctuating, especially as of late, and why it may not be such a good idea just to hang onto your cardboard so you can get a better price on them in the future.

The more I read and talk with people about recycling, the more I realize there is no easy fix to our waste challenge. Customers, companies, and governments should all place recycling at the heart of what they do as a short and mid-term strategic action while looking for more long-term solutions that would allow all of us to leave this planet behind in better shape then when we found it.


Father of two who hopes that by sharing the things he learned, he can leave the world behind slightly better than he found it.