Recycling Grade Spotlight: OCC (Old Corrugated Containers)

Palletized OCC (Old Corrugated Containers, a.k.a. cardboard)

Palletized OCC (Old Corrugated Containers, a.k.a. cardboard)

Recycling OCC

Recycling cardboard is an important priority, as it proves an excellent source of fiber, and a great deal of corrugated is used annually. American Recycling handles 2500 tons per month of OCC, making it a significant part of our operation. Handling the volume of material generated by a typical packaging operation can be a challenge for clients. American Recycling can supply recycling systems ranging from a few bins to turnkey compactors and balers.

Commonly, though imprecisely, called cardboard by those outside the industry, corrugated containerboard has revolutionized product packaging and shipping. Since its introduction in the late 1800s, it has steadily displaced heavy wooden crates and barrels as the container of choice.

Most people are already familiar with the basic construction of ordinary “cardboard”. It consists of a middle, fluted layer, bonded to a strong liner on one side, and a less strong testliner on the other. Perhaps unexpectedly, the “liner” refers to the outside layer. In parts of the Far East it is not uncommon for the flute to be 100% recycled OCC, and the liner and testliner to be around 80% (due to the differing strengths of the two, the fiber mix can vary between them).

Corrugated containerboard is a true sandwich structured composite material, but unlike Boeing’s Nomex/Kevlar/Graphite/Fiberglass composite wing structures, cardboard is over one hundred years old! In that time quite a bit of technical refinement has taken place. The material is specified by construction, flute designation, burst strength, and many more qualities, all standardized by TAPPI and ASTM testing. It is important to keep this valuable resource out of the wastestream.

Recycling Cardboard

For recycling purposes, the cleaner the better. It is tempting to think of OCC as “low grade” because it is the workhorse of the paper world, but nothing could be further from the truth. The high strength of corrugated containerboard, brown grocery bags (made of kraft), and gaylord boxes would be undermined by contamination. In fact, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc (ISRI) states that to be graded as OCC Prohibitive Materials may not exceed 1%, and Total Outthrows may not exceed 5%.