What are the different types of cardboard?

According to Statista, approximately 34 million tons of cardboard were recycled in the United States in 2022. Cardboard is a generic term for heavy paper-based products. It can range from a thick paper known as a paperboard to a corrugated fiberboard.

Cardboard is highly recyclable, and it is an important container material used in the recycling industry. Baling Wire Direct supplies cardboard recyclers with the high-quality baling wire products they need.

What is cardboard made of?

Cardboard is made of paper pulp, which comes from either virgin pulp or recycled fibers obtained through a pulping process. The resulting wood pulp is then processed and bonded into flat sheets. These can then be made into cardboard products such as corrugated cardboard and paperboard.

Types of cardboard and their uses

The different types of cardboard are defined by their thickness, finish, and presence of corrugated fluting.

Corrugated cardboard

Corrugated cardboard (corrugated fiberboard) is the most common cardboard used for boxes and packaging. It consists of a fluted, corrugated layer between two flat liners, providing cushioning and stacking strength for packaging and shipping.

It is the most frequently recycled type of cardboard packaging and is known as “old corrugated containers” (OCC) at the end of its life cycle. Corrugated cardboard comes in a variety of forms, including:

  • Single face. Constructed of just one wall and a fluted layer, this cardboard is added to cushion products.
  • Single wall. Featuring two liners and one layer of fluting, single-wall cardboard boxes are the most common corrugated products.
  • Double wall. Two fluted layers provide extra cushioning.
  • Triple wall. Three fluted layers offer excellent crush resistance and structural stability for shipping heavier products.


Paperboard (solid cardboard) is a thin, compact cardboard sheet suitable for high-quality printing. It is used for mass-consumer packaging and retail displays. It is:

  • Available in bleached and unbleached grades.
  • Easy to form into boxes.
  • Flexible enough to form tubes.


Chipboard, also known as particleboard, is an engineered wood product made from wood particles or fibers. The fibers are combined with an adhesive under heat and pressure to form solid boards. It is thicker than paperboard and offers a durable, cost-effective option.

Types of cardboard boxes

Cardboard is primarily used to manufacture cardboard boxes.

  • Corrugated cardboard boxes (corrugated fiberboard, shipper boxes, cardboard boxes) are commonly used in both shipping and retail environments. They are made of corrugated fiberboard and are used for their strength and cushioning properties.
  • Folding cartons (paperboard boxes, paperboard cartons) are thin and flimsy. They are commonly used for consumer products such as cereal boxes.
  • Rigid boxes (set-up boxes) are sturdy and durable, often used for high-end products such as electronics or jewelry.

Grades of cardboard

Grade denotes the percentage of recycled fiber present in a piece of cardboard. All cardboard grades are recyclable. The different grades of cardboard include:

  • Kraft (K). It is made from virgin fibers and has not been recycled before.
  • Test 2 (T2). Consists of partly recycled liner paper.
  • Test 3 (T3). Made from 100% recycled fibers and is commonly used in the production of cardboard.
  • Chip (C). Made from 100% waste-based liners.
  • Bleached white (BW). This consists of a bleached Kraft liner. It is made from virgin fibers.
  • White top (WT). Made from white coated recycled liner. It is made from recycled fibers.
  • Mottled kraft (MK). Made from a combination of virgin and recycled fibers.
  • Oyster (OY). Made from a combination of virgin and recycled fibers.
  • Semi-chem (SC). Virgin fibers use a neutral sulfite semi-chemical process. Made from virgin fibers and is often used as fluting.
  • Waste-based (WB). Made from 100% recycled paper fibers and is often used as fluting.

The only cardboard that cannot be baled or recycled is that which is wax-coated or contaminated by food or other substances.

How is cardboard recycled?

The cardboard recycling process involves the following steps:

  1. Cardboard is collected from curbsides or drop-off points.
  2. The cardboard is taken to a paper mill or recycling facility for processing.
  3. The cardboard is separated from other recyclables such as paper, plastic, and metal.
  4. Sorted cardboard is compressed into dense bales.
  5. The bales are sent to a mill for repulping. Paper fibers are separated and cleaned to remove contaminants.
  6. Cleaned fibers are made into new cardboard and paper products.

In 2022, 93.6% of cardboard was recycled, making it one of the staple materials of the circular economy.

Best baling wire for cardboard

The right baling wire for cardboard baling depends on your baler, the cardboard density, and storage requirements.

  • Black annealed wire is ductile and feeds smoothly through automatic baling machines. Cardboard is not often stored outside, so the rust resistance of galvanized wire is not usually necessary.

Single-loop bale ties work well with manual horizontal and vertical balers. They are useful for baling cardboard since they can accommodate inconsistently sized cardboard bales. We sell both galvanized and black annealed single-loop bale ties.

Baling wire products we offer

Baling Wire Direct sells the following high-quality baling wire products.

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