How much is my cardboard worth?  Every customer who processes a lot of cardboard will naturally wonder if there is a better way to dispose of it.  Especially if they shop for a baler or compactor specifically for that cardboard.  The question of value is a reasonable inquiry.  Why, then, is it difficult for waste industry professionals to give a quick, clear, and concise answer?  Mostly, because the truth can change day to day.

Also, it’s worth noting early that being environmentally conscious has a value all it’s own.  Going green is not about a political ideology but it’s about good stewardship and management of our collective natural resources.  Luckily there are tax breaks, write offs, and other incentives associated with environmental responsibility that won’t be fully addressed here.

Knowing what kind of return a customer can expect is a sizable part of understanding what the financial impact of recycling will be for an organization.  How, then, do we figure out what’s best for a client?

First, we need to understand what cardboard is.  Trash Haulers will take everything in your waste stream to a landfill and in that case the cardboard has no value for them.  It’s mixed in with the rest of your trash and they are just going to dispose of it.

Recycling haulers are different.  In the recycling industry it is a tradeable commodity.  They take the cardboard you provide and package it to resell to papermills.  The papermills will recycle the raw goods back into marketable ones.  This allows your organization’s cardboard waste to become new products on store shelves again.  The amount that the mills will pay a recycling hauler is directly proportionate to what they can sell it back on the market for.  Likewise, whatever the mills pay the recycling hauler impacts what the hauler can pay you once they subtract out their fixed costs for hauling.  So, in this respect cardboard is really a commodity like any other on a traded exchange.  Like natural gas, corn, wood, etc.

Even if you have a hard and fast rule for how much you would make with your cardboard that price would change constantly.  Future returns cannot be determined by yesterday’s lows or highs.  So, to find the true measure of your use case we need to explore these data points.

  1. What size of waste disposal can, or machine, do you currently have?
  2. How often is that being picked up by your waste hauler?
  3. How much are you currently paying for each trash pick-up from your solid waste disposal company? You will need to examine past bills to find this answer.
  4. Roughly, what percentage of your waste is made up of cardboard? That is the amount that you will be diverting from the part of your waste stream that you must pay to have hauled off.

Once your team has the answers to these questions you can contact an organization, like Direct Compactor and Baler, and they will help you walk through all the nuances of your use case.  Beyond what you will get paid, the biggest concern is what you will save.  What can you save on hauling fees?  What can you save on employee hours breaking down boxes?  What can you save on taxes?  The list goes on.

When your team begins recycling you will be engaging in a fulfilling long-term project with several moving pieces.  If it’s good for the environment and good for your bottom line then it’s time to take the first step.  Call today!

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