Recycled Corrugated Boxes vs. Virgin Corrugated Boxes

white text in blue box says recycled corrugated boxes vs. virgin corrugated boxes on background of brown corrugated boxes

Recycled Corrugated Boxes vs. Virgin Corrugated Boxes 

Boxes. They’re a seemingly inescapable fact of modern life, both in the home and at work. Just about every business utilizes these omnipresent containers to ship goods to their customers around the world, but have you ever given much thought to the material that they’re made up of? Most of the shipping boxes you see around your house or office are constructed from corrugated material – not cardboard, as many are led to believe. When it comes down to corrugated itself, it’s important to note two essential distinctions between the types of material. Businesses and shippers worldwide can opt for either recycled corrugated boxes or virgin corrugated boxes, and it’s key that you understand what differentiates these objects. 

What are Virgin Corrugated Boxes? four masked people in a loading bay load taped corrugated boxes onto a pickup truck

All corrugated material is manufactured using the same process. During this process, wood fibers are pulped and converted into corrugation. The first time this happens, the resulting product is referred to as virgin corrugatedEssentially, virgin corrugated boxes contain absolutely no recycled content. In the modern packaging world, 100% virgin corrugated boxes are somewhat rare as manufacturers and shippers tend to prefer at least some recycled material in the box structure, the reasons for which we’ll get into in just a few moments.  

What are Recycled Corrugated Boxes? 

Conversely (and somewhat obviously), recycled corrugated boxes do contain recycled fibers. After virgin material has been disposed of, it can be re-pulped as many as five times before the fibers can no longer be reused. During this re-pulping process, the actual fibers become shorter and weaker than the original material. This means that recycled corrugated boxes come along with both advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll break down below. 

Recycled Corrugated Boxes vs. Virgin Corrugated Boxes: The Benefits 

compressed corrugated boxes stacked next to each otherUnderstanding the finer details of each type of corrugated material is essential to knowing which will work best for your business and its unique products. First, let’s examine recycled corrugated boxes and what advantages they bring: 

  • Recycled corrugated is more environmentally friendly. It reduces rates of deforestation and is incredibly easy for end users to recycle. 
  • When corrugated material is recycled, it is reused instead of going to a landfill. Packaging materials account for as much as 1/3rd of all landfill materials, so by keeping it out, we prevent landfills from growing and reduce the amount of methane emitted when the corrugation decomposes.  
  • Consumers want sustainable, eco-friendly materials.  

At the same time, we must also consider the advantages that come with using 100% virgin corrugated boxes, which include:

  • Virgin corrugated fibers are longer and stronger than their recycled counterparts. This makes them a better option for heavy-duty products or tumultuous transit journeys.  
  • Virgin corrugated boxes hold up better against heat and moisture than recycled corrugated, meaning they offer superior protection to products stored in humid conditions. 
  • Even virgin corrugated can be recycled by the end user after its first use. 

Recycled Corrugated Boxes vs. Virgin Corrugated Boxes: The Detriments 

Along with the positives of using either virgin or recycled corrugated come a few downsides. While disadvantages are just a fact of life, it’s necessary to gain a thorough understanding in case your business has strict requirements for their packaging supplies. Take a look at some of the possible detriments that come with utilizing recycled corrugated boxes: 

  • Recycled corrugated is weaker than 100% virgin material, making it more susceptible to warping or crushing. 
  • Not all tapes will adhere as well to recycled material because they can’t interweave as easily with the shorter fibers. 
  • Lower quality inks may bleed when printing on recycled corrugated material, meaning you’ll need to spend more in initial packaging costs for a better ink. 

Just like its recycled counterpart, virgin corrugated material also has a few negatives. These sometimes include: 

  • Virgin corrugated isn’t as eco-friendly and requires more deforestation to create the product. 
  • The manufacturing process for 100% virgin corrugated boxes is more energy and water intensive than the process for recycled goods.  
  • Modern consumers want the businesses they patronize to be as environmentally conscious as possible. 

Which Option is Right for You? black and tan dachsund sitting in an open corrugated box in front of white wall

Now that you have the facts about recycled corrugated boxes vs. virgin corrugated boxes, you’re better equipped to make an informed decision for your business. Take some time to examine the most important elements for your company – do you emphasize an eco-friendly mission or do you carry heavy-duty products that need the most protection? If you want to focus on sustainability, but the 100% recycled corrugated box you use is damaged during shipping, you’ll end up negating any environmental benefits when you replace and reship the product. This means that, ultimately, you should take a comprehensive approach to your decision-making process while determining what will work best for the end user, your customer. Contact us or give us a call today to get started on finding the right recycled corrugated boxes or virgin corrugated boxes for your business.  

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