How long does it take for waxed cardboard to decompose?

September 11, 2023
min read

Short answer

The decomposition time of waxed cardboard is estimated to be around 3 months to 1 year.


When it comes to the decomposition of waxed cardboard, the process is relatively slow due to the protective wax coating on the surface. Waxed cardboard is commonly used in food packaging and beverage containers to provide a barrier against moisture, thus increasing its durability and preventing the contents from leaking or getting damaged. However, this wax layer can inhibit the ability of microorganisms and environmental factors to break down the cardboard effectively.

Over time, external influences such as temperature, humidity, and microbial activity can affect the decomposition of waxed cardboard. In most cases, the cardboard itself is biodegradable, but the presence of the wax can significantly slow down the process. While bacteria and fungi can still colonize the cardboard, their ability to digest and break down the cellulose fibers is hindered by the wax coating. Consequently, the decomposition of waxed cardboard may take longer compared to regular non-waxed cardboard.

In some instances, the waxed cardboard may be processed in industrial composting facilities where specialized conditions promote quicker decomposition. These facilities typically maintain specific temperature, moisture, and nutrient levels to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials. Under these controlled conditions, microorganisms can efficiently break down the wax coating and digest the underlying cardboard fibers. However, it is important to note that not all composting facilities accept waxed cardboard, as the process of separating the wax from the fibers may be challenging or require additional steps. Thus, while waxed cardboard may eventually decompose, the time it takes and the conditions required for effective decomposition can vary depending on the environment and waste management practices in place.

Is it possible to recycle waxed cardboard?

Intresting facts

  • Wax is added to cardboard for water resistance and durability, making it suitable for packaging food and beverages.
  • Waxed cardboard is not biodegradable due to the presence of the wax coating.
  • However, the decomposition of waxed cardboard is slower than that of regular cardboard due to the wax barrier, leading to a longer lifespan in landfills.
  • Microorganisms, specifically bacteria and fungi, play a crucial role in the decomposition process by breaking down the organic components of the cardboard over time.
  • The decomposition of waxed cardboard can be accelerated by industrial composting facilities equipped to handle materials with wax coatings.

Summary and final thoughts

The decomposition time of waxed cardboard can vary depending on environmental conditions. In general, waxed cardboard takes longer to decompose compared to regular cardboard due to the presence of wax, which slows down the natural breakdown process. While regular cardboard typically decomposes within a few months to a year, waxed cardboard can take several years or even decades to fully break down. The wax coating creates a barrier that prevents moisture and microorganisms from breaking down the cardboard fibers. Over time, exposure to sunlight, moisture, and microbial activity can eventually lead to decomposition, but it is a slow process. It is important to properly dispose of waxed cardboard by recycling or composting it to ensure its eco-friendly disposal.

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