Recycling cardboard without a car, compost or kerbside

Filed in Blog by on September 24, 2010 16 Comments
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Mrs Green has lots of reuse ideas for cardboard

Mrs Green has lots of reuse ideas for cardboard

Welcome to day five of my “zero waste with little emissions” challenge. Set by one of our readers, Antonio, I’ve been challenged this week to recycle without the use of kerbside collections, a car or a compost heap. I have to responsibly dispose of the following items:

1) 3 Bags of garden waste.

2) A bag of broken wood.

3) A bag of Rubble i.e bricks and stones.

4) Cardboard.

5) a small WEE item-such as printer, kettle, toaster

So far

So far I have recycled or reused the 3 bags of garden waste, a bag of broken wood and a bag of rubble.


Today it’s cardboard day and again my trusty woodburner will come to the rescue for the smaller, thinner pieces. Did you know that cardboard is excellent for getting a fire going whereas too much paper actually puts the fire out?

Vehicle respraying

For larger items I have just the solution. 1/4 mile away we have a vehicle re-sprayer. They will gratefully take any amount of cardboard for sticking to the windows when they do a paint job and then they recycle the cardboard afterwards. Our village shop breaks down all her delivery boxes for them and I would do the same. Cardboard is lightweight and I could easily flatten large cardboard boxes and walk them 1/4 mile down the road and drop them off on the way to school.

If you don’t have a woodburner or a vehicle resprayer nearby, then there are plenty of uses for old cardboard.

post and packaging

Cardboard can be kept for packing material – I sometimes sell things through ebay or Amazon and cardboard is great for packing up books


Worms need a balanced diet of wet stuff and dry stuff. They love nothing more than a bit of shredded cardboard for tea and in addition, some damp cardboard provides a great cover for a wormery where they will eventually chew through it and turn it into compost.

Office use

Last week I was decluttering my office and sorted out some files of information. Cardboard has a myriad of uses in an organised office such as making dividers for A4 folders, making wallets to store things in and even for making mounts for photograph frames. All these ideas not only save resources, but they save you money too.

Nine year old girls!

Little Miss Green has a penchant for paper dolls. She has about 100 of them, all with names, families, hobbies and ages. The thing with paper dolls is they don’t last for long. Print them on the back of a cereal box however, and you’ll got a paper doll that will last longer.

One man’s trash

Playgroups, nurseries, even childminders, schools and the local scrapstore would probably love to get their mitts on any amount of cardboard. We all know kids love a cardboard box more than most toys, so go ahead and share the love …

So I’m keeping my cardboard and already have lots of uses for it. Tomorrow for my final day I’ll be tackling a small WEEE item.

Marks out of 10 for today’s efforts please?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Jane says:

    Cardboard makes a good liner for the car boot. Brilliant too for if you are the sort of person who inspects the underside of the car (Dad, not me). I have also been asked for it by neighbours re-decorating so that they can cover the floor with it. Amazon book packaging is so brilliantly designed that I usually keep several packages and come to think of it may start to freecycle them alongside padded envelopes.

    Hopefully gone are the days when companies – notably office supplies ones – delivered a couple of small things rattling around in a huge box. You should be complaining to Trading Standards if anybody does this to you!

    I use flattened boxes made out of white card to make Christmas labels out of. You can make them to match your paper by sticking a bit of Christmas wrapping on the coloured side of the box leaving you with a lovely white piece of card to write on. Something for the school Christmas Fayre perhaps? Also useful as a label down the outside spine of a file and for shopping lists.

    It goes in the wormery and compost heap when it is not wanted. It helps to get the fire going. Many boxes flatten really easily and most flatten easily and so you can keep them and reassemble them when you need them.

    A lot of Councils recycle card as opposed to brown cardboard with their paper collection and this reduces the amount.

    I agree with you Mrs Green it has a myriad of uses it can be reused for before it meets its end. Do we as a nation need publicly funded cardboard flattening courses now we have become so spatially unaware? I sometimes wonder!!

    Full marks for keeping it.

  2. Harry says:

    Cardboard makes a very good medium for many things. I have known people to shread it and immerse it in water for a few days. drain the water off and compress it into bricks or thick panels as an insulator. or simply add a paste mix to form a papier mache.
    From that you can make hedgehog hides, liners for hanging baskets and all sorts off stuff.
    If it breaks down enough you can use it to mix in with a potting compost. It retains water really well.

  3. Ben says:

    Cardboard would be a problem for us if we didn’t have a council recycle bin collection. Cardboard bins are now fairly common in supermarket car parks too, so assuming you would be visiting anyway, taking the empty card boxes back might be possible.

    I’m interested to see what happens tomorrow with the electrical item. Yesterday the plug on my kitchen mixer broke when taking it out the socket, the plastic case cracked leaving half the plug in the socket with exposed metal. That definitely needs a new plug now, it was probably the original from the 70s, and looking around the house I have a lot of old plugs from the 60s and 70s that are made from the same melamine which have become very yellow and brittle, so I’m planning to replace them too at the weekend. Hopefully I can avoid the plastic clam shell packaging on the new plugs, but what to do with the old ones?

  4. Antonio Pachowko says:

    I admit cardboard has alot of uses but this is dependent on its shape and size. I use large boxes to store my important files and I do so in my garage. I also cardboard boxes to store bits and bobs and it is very useful in this regard, but thick cardboard is such a huge problem as you tend to produce much more than you require. I tend to compost small cardboard items but it take awhile for me to rip it to bits and mix it with my green waste.

    Ben point of supermarkets bring sites starting having containers for paper and cardboard recycling is important because for non-drivers this is a godsend as you can now start recycling cardboard. The logic of bring site designers amazes me as some people bring their glass bottles and cans in their original cardboard container. Obviously one the can and bottles have been discarded there is nowhere to dispose of the cardboard, wheres the logic in that. I also thought that some charities many accept cardboard box as a means of storage or a means of transportation.

    Overall I think I give you a 9

  5. Antonio Pachowko says:

    I also found Jane comments of using cardboard a liner for a car boot for recycling cardboard without a car very funny. You can say that it is very ironic.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Good point about Trading Standards; I forget we can tell them about excessive packaging. We had that incident only last week when Mr G bought a new computer – it’s all caught on camera, so one of these days I’ll get around to sharing it. I like your suggestions for the car boot and protecting floors when decorating 🙂
    @Harry: Hi Harry; thanks for all your suggestions – especially the gardening and wildlife ones!
    @Ben: Hi Ben, thanks for the reminder about supermarkets. we do indeed have cardboard recycling at our local store, which would be manageable on a couple of bus journeys.
    @Antonio Pachowko: Thanks Antonio – great point about offering cardboard recycling alongside cans and glass – that would be a very good idea.

  7. Jane says:

    Naughtily I used to take my cardboard to a friend’s when she had cardboard recycling and I didn’t and in exchange take her plastic bottles and put them in my collection. A fair exchange I thought.

    I once took a whole load of cardboard to the household recycling centre and then back again when they told me to put it in the landfill. Then I campaigned for the Council to recycle it in the recycling centres. They do now. Many Councils also have cardboard recycling banks.

    You can also ask for the packaging to be taken away when you have something large eg fridge delivered. Many of these items are very cleverly packaged nowadays – just cardboard top and bottom.

  8. Jane says:

    People moving house or going to university often want cardboard boxes. Freecycle or a local forum is good for requesting and offering things.

  9. Karen says:

    Our bin lorries collect garden refuse and cardboard every 2 weeks.What a difference this makes. They can’t get down some of the local lanes so there is also a central collection point in a nearby carpark. This is also a collection place for xmas trees. Our local recycling centre is several miles away.
    When I had a dog we entered the house through the garage. I used flattened cardboard boxes at the door to catch the muddy footprints.
    Schools and playgroups can make use of all sorts of small boxes.

  10. Jane says:

    Agree with Antonio bring banks and cardboard in the neighbourhood/supermarket . People often walk carrying a box of bottles or push a push chair with a box of bottles or cans to the local bring bank. Since we often do things en route somewhere else there is a need to be able to dispose of the box (and sometimes wet bag). I see the bags tied to the bottle banks and the whole boxes left. I’ve read of people being fined for leaving the boxes. So why not have a cardboard bank for flattened cardboard there as well? Everybody does have to learn to flatten it though! (This by the way is much easier now that packaging is being designed to be recycled. Some of these boxes are amazing the way you can disassemble and reassemble them. Mostly it is just the bottom you have to undo. Bravo designers and manufacturers!)

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: I think exchanging recyclables with friends is a perfectly good way of responsibly disposing of items Jane; it brings me back to the ‘community’ effort I was talking about at the end of the zero waste with little emissions week. Well done for campaigning with your local council!
    @Karen: Sounds like the collection in your area is fantastic Karen – love the muddy footprint catching!

  12. Karen says:

    We have just had more recycle bins delivered to us . There is a new service starting on the 18th 0ctober. They will collect along with the paper, batteries, spectacles, phone directories, aerosols and mixed glass. We have 2 food waste boxes. One for the kitchen and a lockable one for outside. All food including bones will go in these. They are collected weekly.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: Hi Karen, your kerbside collections seem to improve all the time. What an amazing array of collections you have. We’re still on paper, tins and glass!

  14. Karen says:

    I forgot to mention fabrics as well as all the others things. Tuesday will be the first pick up of food waste. Mine seems to be mainly chicken bones and corn on the cobs. They have supplied us with a roll of bags for the kitchen box. When they are finished I will just use newspaper top line it. The black bin has very little in it this week.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Karen: It gets better and better Karen! Whereabouts are you based again?

  16. Karen says:

    @Mrs Green: . I live in a small village called Buckland Monachorum between Plymouth and Tavistock in Devon

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