By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of packages shipped through the U.S. Postal Service has almost doubled in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Census. And the amount of cardboard recycled in some Twin Cities sorting facilities has spiked, too.

Waste Management says it has seen a 20 percent increase in the amount of cardboard in its recycling stream. Locally, they say, the number has increased every year for the past five years.

Eureka Recycling, based in Minneapolis, mainly serves homes, not businesses. It says St. Paul’s cardboard intake has tripled in just two years. The capital city went from recycling 75 tons of cardboard per month to 225 tons a month.

And it’s not just about the numbers. The types of packages has changed, too.

“I think what we’ve seen is a big shift in cardboard being used as packaging to ship larger quantities to retail,” said Eureka Co-President Lynn Hoffman. “So you’d have 100 razor blades in a giant box going to Walgreens, and now each of those razor blades is in a very small box going to individual homes.”

In 2017 the Fibre Box Association, a trade group that represents cardboard manufacturers, said cardboard use has actually decreased because companies are adapting to newer ways to package things. There is no data that reflects both residential use and business manufacturing.

Industry-wide, however, the boxes are changing, and Hoffman urges shoppers break them down before tossing them in the bin. Otherwise, she says, they might get sorted in the wrong place and not get recycled at all.

“All recycling facilities were designed for those bigger pieces of cardboard, and when they’re smaller and not broken down, they act a lot more like a bottle or a can,” said Hoffman. “A lot of the physics of recycling facilities is separating flat from 3D to get that basic paper and containers. So the smaller boxes act a lot more like containers.”

Christiane Cordero