Cardboard is a terrific alternative to plastic. It is natural, biodegradable, recyclable and lightweight! Cardboard or paper packaging sounds great, but in reality, they are far from perfect. Yes, cardboard comes from a natural resource (trees), but the production, transportation and disposal are not 100% sustainable.
The actual cost in CO2
The rise in popularity of paper or cardboard packaging, which has been greenwashed as this biodegradable and sustainable material, encourages deforestation globally. We cut an average of 3 billion trees yearly to produce paper packaging worldwide. It is a massive amount of trees that we cannot ignore. Trees act as the lungs of our planet, so destroying them at such an alarming rate puts us (humans, but also life in general!) in extreme danger, especially with the rising C02 emissions. You also need a lot of water to produce cardboard out of trees.
The reality about recycling carboard and paper
In food packaging, cardboard is not the most recyclable option. Indeed, we can’t recycle soiled packaging. It means that your take-out container stained with oil from the food you ate will end up in a landfill after only a few minutes of use. Many cardboard packaging is also lined with plastic to make it waterproof. Boxed water, for example, is made from paper lined with plastic (with some aluminum thrown in the mix). The combination of materials makes the cardboard impossible to recycle in most places due to the lack of proper equipment in the recycling facilities.
Cardboard packaging is quite fragile and resource extensive. However, it is biodegradable and can be recycled with suitable facilities. Choosing cardboard packaging is a way to spread awareness about how much single-use plastic we consume daily. People notice cardboard packaging and identify it as a greener alternative to plastic.
The best packaging option will always be to avoid any single-use packaging!
However, when necessary, the best packaging option is one your neighborhood can recycle best. You can do so by looking up your municipality’s recycling guidelines!