Cardboard is a generic term for heavy paper-based products. The construction can range from a thick paper known as paperboard to corrugated fiberboard which is made of multiple plies of material. Natural cardboards can range from grey to light brown in color, depending on the specific product; dyes, pigments, printing, and coatings are available.

The term "cardboard" has general use in English and French,[1][2] but the term cardboard is deprecated in commerce and industry as not adequately defining a specific product.[3] Material producers, container manufacturers,[4] packaging engineers,[5] and standards organizations,[6] use more specific terminology.

Usage statistics

In 2020, the United States hit a record high in its yearly use of one of the most ubiquitous manufactured materials on earth, cardboard. With around 80 percent of all the products sold in the United States being packaged in cardboard, over 120 billion pieces were used that year.[7] In the same year, over 13,000 separate pieces of consumer cardboard packaging were thrown away by American households, combined with all paper products, and this constitutes almost 42 percent of all solid waste generated by the United States annually. In an effort to reduce this environmental impact, many households have started repurposing cardboard boxes for eco-friendly purposes.

However, despite the sheer magnitude of paper waste, the vast majority of it is composed of one of the most successful and sustainable packaging materials of modern times - corrugated cardboard, known industrially as corrugated fiberboard.[8]

Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on

The above graph shows recycling of paper materials.[9]

Management Pathway 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2017 2018
Generation 14,110 21,400 26,350 32,680 39,940 39,640 37,680 39,920 41,060 41,900
Recycled 2,740 3110 7,210 12,070 21,040 23,610 26,850 31,200 30,080 33,890
Composed - - - - - - - - -
Combustion with Energy Recovery - 70 380 3,500 3,670 2,920 1,920 1,710 2,160 1,570
Landfilled 11,370 18,220 18,760 17,110 15,230 13,110 8,910 7,010 8,820 6,440


Tubes made of cardboard, which require high rigidity, but low printability

Various card stocks

Main article: Card stock

Various types of cards are available, which may be called "cardboard". Included are: thick paper (of various types) or pasteboard used for business cards, aperture cards, postcards, playing cards, catalog covers, binder's board for bookbinding, scrapbooking, and other uses which require higher durability than regular paper.


Main article: Paperboard

Playing cards, which require a very rigid single sheet with high surface durability and printability.

Paperboard is a paper-based material, usually more than about ten mils (0.010 inches (0.25 mm)) thick. It is often used for folding cartons, set-up boxes, carded packaging, etc. Configurations of paperboard include:

Currently, materials falling under these names may be made without using any actual paper.[11]

block of egg carton
Egg cartons

Corrugated fiberboard

Main article: Corrugated fiberboard

Corrugated fiberboard

Corrugated fiberboard is a combination of paperboards, usually two flat liners and one inner fluted corrugated medium. It is often used for making corrugated boxes for shipping or storing products. This type of cardboard is also used by artists as original material for sculpting.[12]


Most types of cardboard are recyclable. Boards that are laminates, wax coated, or treated for wet-strength are often more difficult to recycle. Clean cardboard (i.e., cardboard that has not been subject to chemical coatings) "is usually worth recovering, although often the difference between the value it realizes and the cost of recovery is marginal".[13] Cardboard can be recycled for industrial or domestic use. For example, cardboard may be composted or shredded for animal bedding.[14]


The material had been first made in France, in 1751, by a pupil of Réaumur, and was used to reinforce playing cards.[citation needed] The term cardboard has been used since at least 1848, when Anne Brontë mentioned it in her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.[15] The Kellogg brothers first used paperboard cartons to hold their flaked corn cereal, and later, when they began marketing it to the general public, a heat-sealed bag of wax paper was wrapped around the outside of the box and printed with their brand name. This development marked the origin of the cereal box, though in modern times the sealed bag is plastic and is kept inside the box. The Kieckhefer Container Company, run by John W. Kieckhefer, was another early American packaging industry pioneer. It excelled in the use of fiber shipping containers, particularly the paper milk carton.

Examples of different end use

See also


  1. ^ "Definition of CARDBOARD". 21 June 2023.
  2. ^ "Oxford Languages | the Home of Language Data".[dead link]
  3. ^ Walter Soroka, Illustrated Glossary of Packaging Terminology, p. 154.
  4. ^ What is Corrugated?. Fibre Box Association. Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
  5. ^ Soroka, W. Illustrated Glossary of Packaging Terminology (Second ed.). Institute of Packaging Professionals.
  6. ^ D996 Standard Terminology of Packaging, and Distribution Environments. ASTM International. 2004.
  7. ^ US EPA, OLEM (2017-09-07). "Containers and Packaging: Product-Specific Data". Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  8. ^ Shaer, Matthew (28 November 2022). "Where Does All the Cardboard Come From? I Had to Know". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Paper and Paperboard Containers Recyling(1960-2018)Source: American Forest and Paper Association
  10. ^ 1960-2018 Total Paper and Paperboard Containers and Packaging in MSW by Weight (in thousands of U.S. tons).Source : American Forest and Paper Association
  11. ^ Mani, Karthik (May 10, 2023). "5 ways Cardboard Safety Matches are used in Business".
  12. ^ Art, Langan. "Langan Art". Langan Art.
  13. ^ AGR Manser, Alan Keeling, Practical Handbook of Processing and Recycling Municipal Waste (1996), p. 298, 8.1.2.
  14. ^ Nicky Scott, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: An Easy Household Guide (2007), p. 31.
  15. ^ "cardboard". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)