Boxes to pulp to boxes again, but what of the tape?
December 24, 2013 5:19 PM   Subscribe

I unpack a cardboard box. I cut the tape and flatten the box, and a person with a truck takes it to the recycling center, where it is chopped up and wetted into a paste and made into other boxes. What happens to the tape that held the box together? Is it soaked off before the box is chopped up? Is it a total waste, or is it incorporated into a recycled product? How bad is plastic tape for the environment?
posted by blnkfrnk to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's apparently filtered right out!
posted by mittens at 5:56 PM on December 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

FWIW, the plastic tape on boxes can't be more than a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what goes into landfills and gets dumped in the ocean.

Plastic bags, nets (for grapes, potatoes, onions...), and so forth are a real hazard for wildlife; compared to them, plastic tape is fairly benign.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:04 AM on December 25, 2013

FWIW, if I get a package with plastic tape I always rip it off and dispose of it and either save the box for shipping or put the cardboard into the paper/cardboard recycling bin. I also peel off any address labels and other shipping stickers.

Whenever possible, I use paper packing tape (the plain kind). Maybe that would be an option for you? They now make reinforced tape that holds up well even when shipping heavy stuff like sewing machines or cat litter! Opt for the one that is reinforced with thread.
(Anyway, I recently run out and had to use plastic tape for my quonsee's package. It happens :-( ).
posted by travelwithcats at 3:09 AM on December 25, 2013

A similar situation involves the transparent windows in many business envelopes. We're encouraged to included them with the rest of the paper recycling; no need to remove that plastic, either.
posted by Rash at 8:11 AM on December 25, 2013

I think recycled paper and cardboard gets screened or somehow processed to remove things like bits of adhesive tape, staples and other contaminants. Trees for new paper are full of things that need to get removed as well so I think paper mills are well equipped to deal with things like tape.
posted by glip at 1:49 PM on December 25, 2013

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