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How Long Does Cardboard Take To Decompose?

How Long Does Cardboard Take To Decompose?

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How Long Does Cardboard Take To Decompose?

How Long Does Cardboard Take To Decompose In Landfill?

In landfills, cardboard can take anywhere from months to years to break down. Piles of cardboard may take this lengthy time to decompose due to environmental conditions, such as lack of air and moisture. Cardboard in landfills decomposes anaerobically, in these conditions methane-producing bacteria begin to decompose. This is where the generation of methane becomes prominent.

As cardboard releases methane, this traps heat in the atmosphere. Due to this threat, it is important cardboard is recycled, minimising toxic emissions. Around 7 million tonnes of cardboard end up in landfill every year.

How Long Does Cardboard Take To Decompose In Compost Piles?

In compost, a layer of waste cardboard may take weeks to decompose with high moisture. For dry waste, it can take months for cardboard to decompose. This decomposition process works by microorganisms and other elements breaking the cardboard fibres down and producing soil.

Factors Influencing Decomposition Time:

Type of Cardboard

  • Corrugated Cardboard: Takes longer to decompose compared to thinner cardboard due to its multiple layers.
  • Non-Waxy/Uncoated Cardboard: Decomposes faster as it is easier for microorganisms to break down.


Condition of Compost Pile

  • Temperature: Higher temperatures speed up decomposition.
  • Moisture: Adequate moisture levels are crucial; too much or too little can slow down the process.
  • Aeration: Regular turning of the compost pile provides oxygen, which accelerates decomposition.



  • Shredding: Smaller pieces of cardboard decompose faster as they have a larger surface area for microorganisms to work on.
  • Mixing with Greens: Combining cardboard (a “brown” material rich in carbon) with green materials (rich in nitrogen) creates a balanced compost environment, enhancing decomposition.


What Can Recycled Cardboard Be Repurposed For?

Various types of cardboard products can be created from recycling your cardboard waste. A few types of products that can be produced include:

  • Cardboard boxes and packaging
  • Paper bags
  • Paper towels
  • Chipboard
  • Writing paper
  • Newspapers

Whilst there are many products the waste can be recycled into, DIY’ers have also found innovative creations to build from their cardboard waste. These include furniture, dividers and storage systems.


Why You Should Recycle Cardboard Waste

By recycling our cardboard waste, we can help divert materials from landfill sites and reduce its environmental impact from improper disposal. Paper and cardboard holds a recycling rate of almost 70%. Which whilst high, can be increased with the help of cardboard recycling businesses and schemes to push rates. 

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