Is Wax Coated Cardboard Recyclable? (+5 Creative Ways to Reuse It)

Savanna Stanfield

Up until recent years, wax coated cardboard was mainly used for shipping produce to stores for sale.

But as the need for and convenience of having groceries shipped straight to your home has increased, you may find yourself in possession of wax coated cardboard that you aren’t sure what to do with.

This raises the question as to whether or not wax coated cardboard is recyclable.

The answer is that wax coated cardboard isn’t recyclable in most places, but could be in some.

But even if you can’t recycle it in its current wax coated state, is there any way that you can modify it to make it more recyclable?

And if not, how can you appropriately dispose of or reuse wax coated cardboard? We’ll answer these questions and more in this article.

Is Wax Coated Cardboard Recyclable?

Before we answer this question, what exactly is wax coated cardboard?

Wax coated cardboard is a type of corrugated cardboard that is coated in polyethylene wax.

Since wax coated cardboard is used to hold and ship produce and other products like juice boxes that often need to be refrigerated, the polyethylene wax coating helps to keep the cardboard from getting soggy.

But polyethylene is a type of plastic, and plastic and cardboard are both recyclable materials.

So therefore, wax coated cardboard should be recyclable too, right?

Well, recycling wax coated cardboard isn’t as easy as recycling regular cardboard or plastic, so unfortunately a lot of residential recycling programs don’t accept it.

It’s possible that some areas may accept it, but most likely recycling wax coated cardboard would be an option that was only available to produce suppliers and larger businesses.

How Does The Wax Coating Affect Recyclability?

The reason that wax coated cardboard can be difficult to recycle is that wax, even plastic-based polyethylene wax, has a sticky and glue-like texture.

The stickiness can clog up machines used to process and recycle the cardboard.

Because of this, the wax coating would need to be removed before you can recycle the cardboard, which most recycling facilities can’t do.

There have been advances in the ability to recycle wax coated cardboard, but recycling it still isn’t available everywhere.

Wax coated cardboard would have to undergo more processing in order to be recycled properly.

The more processing that has to be done, the more money and energy it costs to recycle those materials.

Some recycling facilities, especially smaller and more localized ones, may not have the means and funding to process materials any more than necessary.

That’s why a lot of your local recycling programs may not accept wax coated cardboard as a recyclable material.

How Can I Tell If My Cardboard Is Wax Coated?

It’s actually really easy to tell if your cardboard is wax coated.

All you have to do is scrape the cardboard with your fingernail to see if a waxy residue comes off.

Can I Remove The Wax Coating?

There is no evidence available that says that you can remove the wax coating from cardboard yourself.

Most recycling centers can’t even remove the wax coating, and they have access to more machines and technology than you and I do.

Do All Recycling Programs Accept Wax Coated Cardboard?

No. Most recycling programs, especially those that are run by your city, do not accept wax coated cardboard because they can’t remove the wax coating from the cardboard.

It is possible that some larger recycling programs do accept it, but it is very likely that your local recycling won’t. But you can always call and check to make sure.

How To Dispose Of Wax Coated Cardboard Correctly

If you can’t recycle cardboard, the preferred method of disposal is to throw it away with your regular trash.

The downside to doing this is that it won’t biodegrade.

While most natural waxes are biodegradable, polyethylene wax is not biodegradable since it is made from plastic.

But since most recycling facilities don’t accept wax coated cardboard, you don’t have much of a choice other than to dispose of it another way.

Is Wax Coated Cardboard Compostable?

Just like wax coated cardboard won’t biodegrade in a landfill, it also won’t compost.

Again, this is due to the wax coating being made of polyethylene plastic. 

Plastic is neither biodegradable nor compostable due to taking a long time to biodegrade and being made from crude oil and other harmful chemicals.

Since you can’t recycle or compost it, you’ll either have to throw away your wax coated cardboard or find a way to reuse it.

5 Creative Ways To Reuse Wax Coated Cardboard

Recycling wax coated cardboard clearly isn’t an available option for most people. The next best thing to do is to find a way to reuse it.

Reusing wax coated cardboard is better than having to throw it away where it will sit in a landfill.

Here are our top suggestions on how you can reuse it.

1. Planters

Since the wax coating on cardboard is designed to keep it from getting soggy, consider turning wax coated cardboard boxes into planters.

You can line the planters with natural options like moss or coir, or poke holes in plastic bags for drainage as a way to reuse those as well.

What’s even better is that you can decorate the planters to suit your style preferences.

Then just add some soil and a plant and enjoy your new planter.

2. Scratching Posts

Cat lovers will love this idea. Corrugated cardboard, wax coated or not, is great to use as a scratching post.

Glue different pieces of cardboard on top of each other so that the corrugated edges create a surface for your cat to use to sharpen its claws.

Decorate the other sides, and now all you have to do is hope that your cat uses the scratching post instead of your furniture.

3. Coasters

Cut circles out of your cardboard and decorate them with paint, duct tape, or washi tape.

The wax coating will keep the coasters from getting soggy as a result of condensation from your drink.

4. Placemats

The idea here is the same as with the coasters.

Using wax coated cardboard for placemats means that it’ll be easy to wipe off spilled food and drink.

Again, you can personalize them with duct tape or washi tape to match your existing decor.

5. Children’s Activities 

There are all kinds of children’s activities that you can create out of wax coated cardboard. 

Playhouses, mazes, and board games are all fun things that your kids will enjoy if they’re bored or want something different from their other toys.

If you have a lot of cardboard, use different pieces to create a playhouse structure, then cut out some windows and doors. Let your children decorate it.

If you just have a little bit of cardboard, help your kids come up with a board game concept and design a game board. Then play it together.

Conclusion 

Wax coated cardboard can’t be recycled as easily as other types of cardboard due to the wax being sticky and hard to separate from the cardboard.

Because of this, most recycling facilities won’t accept it. 

It isn’t biodegradable or compostable either due to the wax being made from plastic.

But if you have some wax coated cardboard that you don’t know what to do with, try one of our creative solutions or come up with your own way to reuse it.

In some cases, reusing as much as possible can be better than recycling, especially if the materials are hard to recycle.

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