Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle cardboard boxes with tape on them? Some of the cardboard boxes I receive when I buy things online come covered in packing tape. Can I recycle such a box as-is, or do I have to spend the time to remove all the tape beforehand? –Jim G.
Dear Jim: While removing tape before you recycle your boxes may save workers some time at the recycling facility, it generally isn’t necessary unless specified by your hauler or your city. Additional materials such as tape and labels can be removed during the normal course of the paper-recycling process.
When your cardboard boxes arrive at the MRF, they’ll be soaked in water and broken down into pulp so the constituent fibers can be reused. The tape will come away from the slurry and can then be removed by the machinery, whether it’s pulled out or skimmed off the top. As long as you don’t leave an excessive amount of tape on your boxes, this shouldn’t pose an issue, but too much tape (as in, a majority of the box is covered) may cause snags or clogs in recycling machinery. Any loose ends you can pull off will help.
Worried about glue traces? Don’t be. You’ve probably torn off enough tape to notice that paper fibers will travel with the adhesive, rather than the adhesive remaining on the box.
Cities, such as Denver, advise that it’s fine to send boxes along with some tape still on them. Do note that other municipalities may request that you remove any tape, so as always, it’s best to confirm your city’s requirements.
Of course, to save the time and resources needed for a round of recycling, reusing your boxes is always a wise choice when it’s possible. Use them for economical home storage, or save them for the next time you need to ship something. Check out more tips on what to do with your old packaging, or take our quiz on how to prepare your paper for recycling.