Planned Obsolescence and the Cardboard Box – Chinese Recycled Boxes Considered

Okay so, how many times can you use a cardboard box? Interestingly enough, many small business owners get supplies and shipments in, in boxes, and they put their own products in those boxes and allow their customers to use them to carry the products they’ve purchased. Have you ever gone to a grocery store and watched the store clerks unload products onto the shelves or in the produce department? Everything comes in in big boxes, and it all goes out in small bags, paper or plastic, in shopping carts. Have you ever wondered where all those boxes go?

Interestingly enough they are broken down, crushed, and compacted into a container at the rear of the store. From there they go to a recycling center and are often put into the empty cargo containers going back to China for all the goods that we buy from that nation. Once those cardboard boxes get to China they are re-mulched in an acid process, and made back into cardboard boxes again.

If you ever buy a product from a large big box retail store, something that is made in China, you will note that the cardboard is somewhat flimsy, and gets it structural integrity from the Styrofoam molded support pieces surrounding the product you purchased. When you rip apart these boxes to put in your recycling bin at home, perhaps you’ll notice that the cardboard is of very low quality, it comes apart with flakes, and paper fiber dust. These are the sorts of boxes you can’t use again.

Of course, the Chinese are very wise, that box is only as strong as it needs to be for that one way trip, why make it any stronger than it needs to be to serve that purpose right? Sure, that makes sense, until you happen to want to reuse that box again for something else. Yes, so let’s address this shall we?

Indeed, let’s say you were going to move your kid to college, and wanted to box up some of their things in their room. I wouldn’t advise using used Chinese cardboard boxes to hold their personal belongings, because there is a good chance those boxes will fail, they were not designed to be used for multiple uses, especially without the interior components such as the Styrofoam interior support structure.

There seems to be some sort of planned obsolescence when it comes to cardboard boxes made in China, that is to say they are designed to only for their intended use, not made to be used over and over again without being completely recycled, re-mulched, and re-manufactured at that point in time. Consider if you will what they are dealing with to begin with; you see they are using very low quality material to begin with, mostly because it is all made from previously recycled cardboard.

One should congratulate the Chinese for using all recycled boxes, good for them, still one might also ask; what is the limit of the recycling chain, how many times can that process go on before the material is simply unusable? Good question, one I have to ask as a think tank founder, because we all know we need to recycle, but can we continue to do that indefinitely? Maybe not when it comes to card board, I think this is something the Chinese have mastered, probably out of necessity as this box material is somewhat scarce these days.

Let’s review this recycling cycle shall we?

If you take those cardboard boxes and put them into your recycling bin, they will once again be recycled, shipped in cargo containers back to China, re-mulched once again and made into cardboard boxes in the next cycle. How many times can they legitimately do this before those boxes, supposedly made of cardboard, crumble and decay, and expose the products inside? Round and round we go, but when those boxes fail, we might never know. Welcome to the world of planned obsolescence in the cardboard industry, not just in China, everyone is looking for such solutions now.

Not long ago, I was reading in the Wall Street Journal that a very famous cardboard box making company in Los Angeles had gone out of business. Their explanation was it just costs too much to make cardboard boxes and they could not compete anymore. Interestingly enough, the price of cardboard has skyrocketed, and yet with all the rules and regulations, environmental restrictions, the company just couldn’t stay in business.

You might not think this is not an important industry for the US, but it is, if we have to buy the boxes from China for those products still made in the United States, it seems like we aren’t getting very far very fast. It is somewhat scary that it is cheaper to send the recycled material to China to make it into folded boxes and shipped back to the USA to use here for those products we make rather than making our own boxes from our own recycled material.

Indeed, I thought you should know this, I hope you will please consider it all and think on it.

Post time: 10-16-2017