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Since the new Millennium, there has been a push toward environmental consciousness, including recycling. With land dumps reaching impossible capacity and pollutions levels reaching all-time highs, it’s no wonder there is concern for our safety. In fact, one of the scariest garbage dumps lies in the Pacific Ocean: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a collection of debris that has accumulated in the most massive oceanic garbage patch in the world. What makes this even more terrifying is other garbage patches across the globe resemble this one.

However, people have been doing their part to recycle and avoid catastrophes like the one above. Canadians have done their part to correctly recycle more products each year, and it has a profound impact on the environment. But one question many people have is: What happens after my recyclables are picked up? In this series, we’ll discuss what happens to each recycled material, and today we’ll start with cardboard.

Step One: Pick Up or Drop Off

The step people are most familiar with is pick up/drop off. There are a few ways this can happen, from recycling companies picking up business’ loads, to collection facilities where the average person can take their boxes. Either way, this is, of course, the most crucial step.

Step Two: Sorting

Recycling plants have to sort all of their recyclables, to catch any non-substance materials. It’s common that non-cardboard materials are mixed in with cardboard, so these facilities make sure they set apart only what can be recycled. To sort product more efficiently, plants utilize automated sorting machines that easily separate un-recyclable materials.

Step Three: Shredding and Pulping

Once the cardboard is separated, it runs through a machine that shreds it into miniscule pieces and is then mixed with water and wood pulp to create a slush. A filter runs through this slush to catch any extra materials, such as glue or tape. Then, the slush is ready for rebuilding.

Step Four: Rebuilding, Part 1

The cardboard slush goes into a machine that strains the water out of the slush, creating sheets of paper. The paper is then squeezed through a roller to remove any excess water. After that, it is heat dried and wound on a spool of paper to be sent to manufacturers.

Step Five: Rebuilding, Part 2

Manufacturers receive the spools and decide what type of cardboard they need. Then, they build the paper into various kinds of cardboard. The process is complete!

Although recycling cardboard is not flashy, it is a necessary process and learning about what happens after you recycle is an interesting way to show you care about the environment. Next time someone asks if recycling does anything, show them this process and explain how important it is that they recycle correctly.