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Corrugated Boxes and Their Life Cycle


Corrugated boxes are an essential component of the packaging and shipping industries, ensuring the safe and secure transportation of goods from point A to point B. From their humble beginnings as flat sheets of cardboard to their transformation into sturdy containers, the journey of a corrugated box is fascinating. Almost everything we handle daily has been packaged, transported, and delivered in these brown boxes. To better understand the manufacturing process behind the creation of corrugated boxes and improve imaging efficiency in the staging industry, it is crucial to explore the various stages of their journey. Let’s talk about corrugated boxes and learn the details of their production!

The Basics of Corrugated Cardboard and Terminology

When the term “cardboard” is mentioned, most people instantly think of the large, brown boxes used for shipping items. However, if you are not involved in the packaging industry, you may not be aware that cardboard actually refers to a thick paper stock or heavy paper pulp. In fact, cardboard is the heavy paper material used to create a wide range of products, such as cereal boxes, tissues, greeting cards, and more. Nonetheless, it is important to note that corrugated boxesare made with a different type of cardboard, which is not precisely the same. Corrugated cardboard is made up of three layers of thick paper stock that are glued together. It comprises two flat outside pieces called liners with a layer of grooved cardboard sandwiched between them. The wavy piece of paper stock that forms the middle layer is known as fluted cardboard, and it comes in different sizes to provide varying levels of strength.

The Life Cycle of Corrugated Carton Packaging

Corrugated packaging is a highly popular shipping material in the United States, with around 95% of products being shipped in corrugated boxes. The reason behind this is because it is a cost-effective, lightweight, and recyclable packaging solution. These boxes have a layered design that allows them to withstand the pressure that comes with stacking, making them highly suitable for easy transportation. Also, businesses prefer to use corrugated boxes because of their reusability. They are considered one of the most eco-friendly packaging options since they are made with a percentage of recycled materials that can be reused multiple times. If you are wondering about the process of creating a corrugated box, let’s take a look at how it begins.

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

Corrugated cardboard is a commonly used packaging material that is often made from recycled content, such as used cardboard and paper stock. The production of recycled cardboard requires only about 75% of the energy needed to make new cardboard. However, the fibers in cardboard weaken with each recycling, which limits the number of times it can be recycled to about eight.

While recycled paper is the primary source of material for corrugated boxes, new cardboard made from virgin pulp is also necessary. Sustainable pine trees that grow quickly are the primary raw material source for producing new cardboard. After harvesting, the trees are stripped of their branches, and the trunks are transported to a pulp mill for further processing.

Step 2. The Pulping Process

The process of turning wood into paper involves several stages. First, the tree trunks are converted into wood chips. These chips are then treated with chemicals to break them down into a fibrous pulp. Once the pulping and processing are complete, the fibers are sent to the paper machine, where they are formed, pressed, fired, and eventually rolled into large, heavy rolls of brown craft paper. This process is known as the kraft process and is commonly used in mills around the world to produce paper.

Step 3. Manufacturing and Fluting

The process of creating wavy paper stock involves feeding rolls of kraft paper into a corrugated roller machine. Interestingly, grooved rollers have been used since the 18th century and were primarily utilized to add ruffles to apparel items like hats and shirts. After the paper passes through the corrugator, glue is applied to stick the liners to both sides. Once the corrugated material is assembled, it is cut into the desired shape of the box and then made ready for packaging, bundling, and distribution.

Step 4. Usage

Corrugated cartons are extensively used in various industries. However, the food and shipping industries are the prominent users of these cartons. The reason behind their popularity is that they are cheap to produce and provide excellent protection to the products stored inside, making them ideal for transportation purposes. These boxes are not only strong, lightweight, and cost-effective, but they are also safe for food packaging. Moreover, eco-friendly glues are used to manufacture these boxes, making them environmentally friendly and a better option for food storage.

Step 5. Recycling

Corrugated boxes are one of the most commonly used types of packaging for shipping products. However, did you know they are also one of the most sustainable and cost-effective options available? After use, these boxes can be sorted into recycling and sent back to the paper mill to start the recycling process once again.

Recycling involves soaking the corrugated cardboard in water and chemicals to break it down, after which all coloring and staples are removed. The broken-down corrugated material is then mixed with virgin fibers and remade into new corrugated cartons! This process can be repeated up to 8 times, making it a highly sustainable solution.

In addition, using eco-friendly glues such as liquid or gelatin-based glues makes recycling corrugated boxes far easier and better for the planet. By choosing to use recycled corrugated boxes and environmentally friendly glues, we can help reduce our impact on the planet and move towards a more sustainable future.

The Future of Sustainable Packaging

As the packaging and shipping industries continue to evolve, it’s essential to recognize the crucial elements required to create an optimal package. Given the increasing importance of swift and efficient transportation of goods in local and global economies, sustainability has become a key factor. If you’re seeking ways to enhance the environmental sustainability of your packaging, you may want to consider the adhesive that holds it together, as it could prove to be a significant game-changer.

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