Cardboard is a term used to describe a thick, wood-based product made up of paper pulp. It should not be confused with cardstock, as it is more rigid and durable. It is heavier in construction due to layering and frequently the addition of glue.
The cardboard box was originally created as a substitute shipping carton, replacing heavier, more expensive crates generally used for shipping products from one location to another. Crates and cartons have been made from a variety of materials from wood to hard plastic. Using a cardboard box rather than a crate is said to be better for the environment, as it is readily recyclable as well as biodegradable, and can often be made from recycled materials to begin with.
The design of the typical cardboard box is layered, utilizing a flat “liner” made of pressed paper pulp on both sides of a corrugated center layer. Sheets or rolls of pressed paper can be run through a machine to achieve the corrugated effect, by creating a fluted layer. Glue is added as the layers are bonded together. This process makes the material stronger and provides better padding for items placed inside the box.
A heavier design of the corrugated cardboard box is known as “double wall.” This construction uses five layers instead of three as described above. Double wall cardboard includes a second inside liner as well as an additional corrugated layer.
Rather than being made from hardwoods as some paper products are, a corrugated cardboard box is generally made from paper fibers obtained from softwoods. Softwoods can be readily replenished because they grow much faster than hardwoods. In fact, softwoods can be planted at a rate that keeps them more plentiful than what is needed to create paper products.
Aside from becoming a popular replacement for the shipping crate, boxes made from cardboard have also found other uses. It began being used widely, in other designs, as packaging for products such as foods. Breakfast cereal is a perfect example. This type of box was generally made from sheets of cardboard but the name is often used interchangeably with corrugated boxes.
Today, fiberboard has replaced cardboard to a great extent. Recycled materials are often used to create the fiberboard or pressed paper found in the type of container we refer to as a cardboard box. This is not only a more cost-effective alternative but is also more environmentally friendly.