Can You Recycle Cardboard with Tape on It?
Everyone knows recycling is good for the environment, but recycling cardboard isn’t always straightforward — especially when tape is involved.
Tape is commonly used in conjunction with cardboard packaging to seal it up, so can you put cardboard boxes with tape on them in the recycling bin?
The short answer is yes.
However, it depends on what kind of tape is used and whether it can be separated from the rest of the packaging. In some instances, it’s better to avoid recycling cardboard packaging.
Let’s find out why.
Should You Remove Tape from Cardboard Before Recycling?
The UK has improved recycling rates over the past decade, but recycling has decreased in recent years. There’s plenty of room for improvement, and many local authorities and businesses are working hard to boost recycling to minimise the waste sent to landfills.
Removing tape from packaging is an easy way to make sure cardboard waste gets recycled. While almost all cardboard is recyclable, most forms of packaging tape are difficult for recycling facilities to process.
If tape is present, it can get stuck in machinery and slow operations, reducing the efficiency of the recycling process. Tape can also contaminate the final recycled material, making it less useful and valuable, potentially reducing the demand for recycled cardboard due to quality concerns.
What Happens If You Can’t Remove the Tape?
At recycling facilities in the UK, waste is sorted by machines and by hand. If there’s too much tape attached to cardboard packaging, it’s deemed unsuitable for recycling — neither the cardboard nor the tape will be recycled, and it all ends up as landfill waste.
That’s not to say you can’t recycle packaging if it has tape on it. Some facilities will accept cardboard with a small amount of tape if their machinery and recycling process can separate the two materials successfully. Other facilities simply reject any cardboard packaging sealed with tape.
We recommend checking with your local council to see if they have specific guidelines for recycling cardboard with tape.
Recycling Tip: Generally, you should aim to recycle clean and dry cardboard. If cardboard is spoiled or wet — for example, greasy pizza boxes — it may not be accepted by recycling facilities. It could even contaminate otherwise perfectly recyclable materials, so it’s best to dispose of spoilt packaging in general waste.
Where Can You Recycle Cardboard with Tape on It?
In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, household recycling is managed by local authorities responsible for collecting and processing household waste. Local authorities generally have their own recycling facilities, but some have contracts with private companies to process the collected materials.
There are different rules for recycling depending on where you live. The guidelines can vary between towns, cities and counties, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with the rules in your local area.
Since it’s convenient for most people to recycle cardboard waste via curbside collection — and most local authorities collect “mixed recycling”, including plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and metal — it’s important to know what can and can’t be recycled. “Wishcycling” can interfere with the recycling process, and recycling cardboard with tape attached is no different.
Is Sticky Tape Recyclable?
So, can you recycle packaging tape itself? The answer depends on what kind of tape is used. Most people are familiar with transparent, plastic-based tape, but this form of sticky tape isn’t recyclable.
What’s worse is that non-recyclable, plastic-based tape is commonly used with recyclable wrapping paper or Kraft paper sheets, creating a similar problem of removing tape from cardboard packaging.
The only kind of tape that is recyclable is paper tape. You can leave this kind of tape attached to cardboard packaging for recycling since it’s derived from the same raw materials.
Related: Can You Recycle Mailing Bags?
How to Increase Recycling as a Business
Don’t miss the opportunity to help your customers recycle more. Consumers need to feel good about purchasing your products, so here are a few ideas to make your business better for the environment:
1. Use Paper-Based Tape
Most kinds of tape aren’t recyclable, but paper packaging tape is 100% recyclable and retains much of the same functionality as standard tape. It features a strong adhesive that easily binds to packaging and doesn’t need to be removed before processing. Plus, using a tape dispenser ensures you’re not using too much on your packaging.
2. Use Self-Seal Postal Boxes
Tape is required when boxes need to be secured from the outside, but self-seal postal boxes are different. They don’t require packaging tape as they feature an adhesive strip on the inside flap of the packaging, helping to keep packages secure without needing tape of any kind.
3. Opt for Biodegradable Packaging
If recycling doesn’t seem like the best solution for you, use biodegradable packaging, like our compostable mailing bags made from naturally sustainable materials. This kind of packaging decomposes naturally over time into organic matter, meaning no further energy is required for the packaging to degrade — under the right conditions, nature will take care of everything.
4. Create Custom Packaging
A custom packaging solution can help you save money on shipping costs by reducing empty space in parcels. It’s also an excellent option for businesses looking to add a personal touch to their packaging with artwork and branding. The environmental benefit is that you optimise your packaging for recycling with instructions to customers on what to do with the packaging once it has served its purpose.
How Much Do Your Customers Know About Recycling?
Educating your customer base is essential to improving recycling. There are some simple things to highlight that could make all the difference.
Explain Which Materials Can Be Recycled
Almost 90% of the UK population regularly recycles, but many consumers aren’t doing it right. At least a fifth of UK residents incorrectly dispose of at least ten items in their recycling every week. With this evidence, it’s clear that many people don’t realise they can recycle cardboard boxes with tape on them, especially if you’re using paper tape. Your business could make a real difference by sharing relevant information on how and what to recycle.
Tell Customers to Remove Non-Paper Materials
Customers may not know to remove bubble wrap and foam packing peanuts before recycling your eco-friendly packaging. While bubble wrap can be recycled, it should be separated from the rest of the packaging. Since consumers can easily miss this step, paper-based void fill makes an effective, eco-friendly alternative to bubble wrap that’s not only recyclable but compostable and biodegradable too.
Offer In-Store Recycling via Drop-off Points
If you sell recyclable products in shops and stores, you could explore partnering with retailers to set up recycling points within stores for your items. If your products are shipped to supermarkets, make sure your shelf-ready packaging is up to scratch.
By providing information and resources on your website, in marketing materials, or via recycling instructions printed on your packaging, you can inform your customers how to recycle your packaging responsibly.
Not only does this approach allow your brand to voice its sustainable messaging clearly, but it also ensures that your products don’t end up in landfills.
The Benefits of Recycling Cardboard and Paper Tape
It might surprise you that plastic can only be recycled once or twice before it becomes unusable. Conversely, paper and cardboard can be recycled up to seven times, making them much more efficient than oil-based alternatives.
Recycling cardboard saves energy and resources that are required to produce new materials, which can lead to cost savings for businesses across the board. It also opens up a market for eco-friendly packaging, allowing more businesses to package their products sustainably.
Plus, recycling cardboard can have a significant impact on reducing waste and conserving natural resources. Recycling reduces carbon emissions and reduces the need for landfill space, making it one of the most important aspects of sustainability in commerce.
Ordering Plastic-Free Packaging from Packaging Supplies
At Packaging Supplies, we specialise in recyclable and biodegradable packaging solutions. We understand the importance of responsible waste disposal for businesses of all types. We can help you achieve greater sustainability with the right eco-friendly packaging for your business — whether in retail, eCommerce, food service or events.