How To Get Rid Of Cardboard Boxes

Don’t worry, I’ve been there, boxes scattered everywhere.

We moved 7 times in the past 8 years and after each move, we were left with mountains of cardboard boxes that we no longer needed.

And of course, having cardboard boxes everywhere isn’t really great for the aesthetics of the home.

I was left with a confusing question, “How do I get rid of cardboard boxes?”

Of course, we could have thrown them in the trash, but with the current state of our planet, that didn’t feel like the right thing to do.

After a few hours of Googling and reading articles online, we found quite a few ways we could recycle our old cardboard boxes that went beyond tossing them away or putting them into the recycling bins at our local supermarket.

Here is what we found we could do with our old cardboard boxes before recycling them:

Reuse old cardboard boxes

Re-using means the boxes get to used more before discarding them. Since we had very little storage space in our house, I tried to figure out how to get rid of cardboard in a sustainable way. The preferred way of dealing with cardboard boxes is re-using them to maximize their use before recycling.

  • Sell them – It might not be much but some cash is better than no cash.
  • Give them away: Know any friends that will move or might need some extra storage? Give them your boxes! You could even charge for them if you’d like… Because your cardboard is worth something. How much exactly? Find out how much your recycled cardboard is worth.
  • Get crafty – We used several leftover cardboard boxes to build a big airplane for our 3-year-old and build a new hangout for our cat. Pinterest has literally a million creative ideas to build cool things out of cardboard.
  • Reuse them for storage – If you’ve just moved into a new home, you might have brought things with you that you still love, but don’t have a place. Instead, you can put them safely into a cardboard box and place them in your attic.
  • Store them – You never know, you might end up moving out in a couple of months, so – if you have space – putting them into storage would be a great idea!

Recycle old cardboard boxes

Inevitably, old cardboard boxes will wear down and instead of ending up in a landfill, they can be recycled and turned into … cardboard again. Cardboard can be recycled 5 – 7 times. After that, the cardboard fibers become too small to produce strong enough cardboard. The final use of recycled cardboard and paper is usually tissues, napkins, or egg cartons which will end up in the trash because they cannot be recycled again.

  • Recycle them – Everyone knows that they have one easy solution when it comes to getting rid of cardboard boxes – recycle them. Have you ever wondered how often cardboard can be recycled? I know I did and you can find the answer here.
  • Composting – If you’ve got green fingers, your cardboard could be added to the compost pile, as long as it hasn’t come into contact with substances like cleaning and bathroom supplies. You could kill off your plants if you’re not careful.

How to get rid of your cardboard: The obvious choice

Shredded cardboard pieces

As I mentioned before, there are multiple ways to answer when anyone asks “How do I get rid of cardboard” the far obvious choice and perhaps the easiest one is to give them a second life.

However, if you have exhausted all ways to reuse the, it’s time to start recycling.

Cardboard is one of the easiest materials to recycle; there are a few very good reasons to do so:

  • Recycling Cardboard is effective: Turning old cardboard into new cardboard only requires 75% of the energy it would make new cardboard from scratch.
  • Good for the air: Recycling cardboard produces 50% less sulfur dioxide, assuming it is being done by using fossil fuels than it does to make brand new cardboard from raw materials.
  • Reduces the amount of cardboard production: Obviously, if cardboard is being recycled, it means that there is less of a demand when it comes to making new cardboard, which overall is great news for our trees.

So, despite the guilt which has filled you up knowing you’ve got seemingly endless amounts of cardboard after moving to your forever home, at least you can find comfort in knowing recycling will mean great things for the planet.

If you’re going to go down this route, here’s how we prepared our cardboard for recycling:

Step 1 | Break your cardboard down

It’s significantly simpler for both you and your waste company to recycle your cardboard when it’s being separated properly.

Ensure each box is totally empty and make sure that each box is completely flat.

On the off chance that any piece of the cardboard has been harmed by a spilled substance (this includes water spills), cut that piece of the cardboard away.

Most recycling facilities will reject soggy cardboard because it might clog up their sorting machines.

On top of that – and it might seem odd – the reality is cardboard that has been affected by any kind of substance is much harder to recycle, even after it has fully dried. Water or other substances weaken the cardboard and paper fibers, reducing their value for recycling facilities.

One last thing: Don’t worry too much about eliminating all of the cello tape or sticky labels which might have been attached to the cardboard, since they can be removed at the recycling facility fairly easily.

Though if you’ve got the time, you can go ahead and remove them yourself.

Step 2 | Keep your boxes dry

As mentioned, boxes that have been affected by any sort of substance can take a lot for a facility to recycle properly, so even after you’ve flattened them, you should make sure to store them in a dry place.

Again, there is no market for wet cardboard, and if they do get wet even if you’ve put them in a dry space, make sure you cut that piece of the cardboard out before you hand it over to the facility.

Step 3 | Double-check with your waste management company

You should check with your waste management company how they intend to pick up your cardboard boxes; in some cases companies won’t take anything that isn’t directly inside the recycle bin.

This will be a problem for you if you’ve got a LOT of cardboard to get rid of after a recent move, so it’s worth checking the rules on this sort of thing.

If you can’t fit them all in your recycle bin at once, your next option is to prepare them in batches until you can get rid of them all or find a drop-off location where you can get rid of them instead.

There is a third alternative, however; you could keep on reading to find other, more creative ways of recycling your cardboard.

Other Ways To Get Rid Of Your Cardboard

If you can re-use your cardboard or recycling is not an option, there are a few more things you can do before dumping everything in the trash can:

Use cardboard as garden mulch

Garden mulch layer recycled cardboard

This blew my mind. You can mulch your vegetable paths or flower beds using old cardboard boxes. It’s an excellent way to kill weeds, retain water in the soil, and keep the soil cool (or warm depending on the season).

Just make sure that the cardboard is not printed with colored ink. Some cardboard ink may contain toxic heavy metals. Also, avoid wax-coated cardboard as it makes it hard for water to penetrate the ground.

Start by cutting open the cardboard boxes along their seems and unfold the box. Place the cardboard on the soil. You might need a couple to cover the entire area. Make sure the cardboard overlaps nicely. To keep it in place, spray the cardboard with water as you place them on the ground. They can be soaked. Then add a few rocks or garden stakes to hold your cardboard in place.

If you don’t like the original cardboard look, simply add another layer of mulch or compost on top of the cardboard.


Recycled cardboard compost heap

And this was another thing I did not know: cardboard is compostable!

That’s right, cardboard can easily be added to a compost pile.

Even the cardboard which has gotten wet, which I previously stated was useless to recycling facilities can even be used too, though this is only for cardboard that has not touched any inedible substances like cleaning supplies.

If you don’t quite have a green finger, I’m sure there is a neighbor or a friend in town who would be more than happy to take your cardboard off your hands to use in their compost heap.

No green-finger friends in the neighborhood? You could always donate it to a compost facility, check out the U.S. Composting council website for more details.

Final thoughts

As you can see throughout this article, there are plenty of ways you can get rid of your cardboard boxes that have been cluttering up your home after a recent move, some of which I used when I moved my family from one end of the country to the other.

By becoming more aware of the impact recycling has on our world, we try our best to always re-use, recycle, and compost before throwing any cardboard into the trash can.


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