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Are Cereal Boxes Recyclable? How Do You Properly Dispose of Them?

90s cereal boxes

Most cereal boxes are made of paperboard. This material is lightweight and used for various food and dry products, like cereal boxes. You’ll also find milk cartons, bakery boxes, medicine, cosmetics, and shoe boxes made of paperboard. Most of the time, these boxes can be recycled. However, this isn’t always the case, as it depends on the materials used to make the box.

Paperboard and cardboard are often confused with each other. However, paperboard is much thinner than cardboard. The cardboard has three layers, and the inside is corrugated. In this way, it is much stronger than paperboard. However, paperboard is utilized for smaller products like cereal, which doesn’t need the extra protection of cardboard.

Practically all paperboard is recyclable. Many food containers that utilize paperboard also contain a polyurethane coating. However, even this coating can be removed and recycled from the paperboard. Therefore, there isn’t much that would make this material unable to be recycled.

You don’t have to do anything special with the boxes, either. Flatten them and put them wherever paper can be recycled. Most areas have paper recycling of some sort, as it is one of the easier materials to reuse.

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When Can Cereal Boxes Not Be Recycled?

pile of cardboard and cereal boxes
Image By: CHUTTERSNAP, Unsplash

The only paperboard that shouldn’t be recycled is when it’s very wet. Cereal boxes that get wet right before recycling and processing are likely fine. However, the paperboard starts to break down when it gets wet. Therefore, if the box gets wet and sits there, it likely won’t be able to get recycled. It will be too broken down.

You can always check with your local guidelines and the guidelines of wherever you’re recycling the paperboard. Some places have specific regulations about wet paperboard.

How Does Paperboard Get Recycled?

Paperboard is fairly easy to recycle, which is why it can be commonly recycled just about anywhere. At the recycling facility, it will be separated from other materials. Then, all the paper materials are sent to a paper mill, where they get recycled. The paper gets broken down in a pulper. This machine is like a giant blender that breaks cereal boxes and other boxes into tiny pieces.

Once everything is broken down, the pulp is screened and dried. After that, it’s ready to be remade into something else. Often, it gets sent to a converter which remakes the product into something new.

Do Cereal Boxes Get Recycled with Cardboard or Paper?

Image By: JustynaKoniecz, Pixabay

Cereal boxes are made of paperboard, a type of thick paper. Therefore, you can recycle them alongside all other types of paper. Cardboard has three layers and may contain different ingredients, so it must be recycled separately. Paperboard doesn’t fit into this category, allowing it to be recycled along with all the other paper.

You should empty the box and place it wherever you get the rest of your paper recycled.

Are All Cereal Box Brands Recyclable?

Practically all cereal boxes can be recycled. Very few things would make a cereal box unable to be recycled. Currently, no major cereal companies package their food in containers that cannot be recycled. Most cereal boxes are made from recycled materials, anyway. These cereal boxes can then be re-recycled to be made into something else.

You can often look on the box for information on recycling that specific cereal box. However, the general guidelines explained in this article hold true for most situations.

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Cereal boxes are made of paperboard, which is often a recyclable material. Most cereal boxes are already made from recycled materials, but this material can usually be recycled again. Most areas have a place for recycled paper, as recycling paperboard is easier than other materials. Therefore, cereal boxes are often one of the easiest things to recycle.

You don’t have to prepare cereal boxes in any way for recycling. Make sure they are completely empty and flatten them. Then, place them in the paper bin. While paperboard is similar to cardboard, it is more similar to paper. Therefore, most areas will have residents place cereal boxes with paper—not cardboard.

Featured Image Credit: Samantha Gades, Unsplash


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