What’s a Cardboard Box?

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Cardboard boxes are a popular shipping crate replacement made from paper pulp and layered with glue for strength and padding. They are environmentally friendly and can be made from recycled materials. Softwoods are used instead of hardwoods, and they are also used for packaging food products. Cardboard boxes have largely been replaced by fiberboard, which is cheaper and more eco-friendly.

Paperboard is a term used to describe a thick wood-based product made from paper pulp. It should not be confused with cardboard, as it is more rigid and resistant. It is heavier in construction due to layering and often adding glue.

The cardboard box was originally created as a substitute shipping carton, replacing the heavier and more expensive crates typically used for shipping products from one place to another. Crates and cartons were made from a variety of materials, from wood to hard plastic. Using a cardboard box instead of a crate is said to be better for the environment, as it’s easily recyclable and biodegradable, and can often be made from recycled materials to begin with.

The typical cardboard box design is layered, using a flat paper pulp “liner” pressed onto both sides of a corrugated center layer. Sheets or rolls of pressed paper can be passed through a machine to achieve the corrugated effect, creating a wavy layer. Glue is added as the layers are brought together. This process makes the material stronger and provides better padding for the items placed inside the box.

A heavier corrugated box design is known as a “double wall.” This construction uses five layers instead of three as described above. Double-walled cardboard includes a second inner lining and an additional corrugated layer.
Instead of being made with hardwood as some paper products are, a corrugated box is usually made with paper fibers obtained from softwoods. Softwoods can be easily replenished because they grow much faster than hardwoods. In fact, softwoods can be planted at a rate that keeps them more abundant than needed to make paper products.

In addition to becoming a popular shipping crate replacement, cardboard boxes have found other uses as well. It started to be widely used, in other designs, as packaging for products such as food. Breakfast cereals are a perfect example. This type of box was usually made from sheet cardboard but the name is often used interchangeably with corrugated boxes.

Today, fiberboard has largely replaced paperboard. Recycled materials are often used to create the fiberboard or pressed paper that is found in the type of container we call a cardboard box. This is not only a cheaper alternative, but it is also more environmentally friendly.

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