The Origin of Cardboard Shipping Boxes

It seemed right to begin a discussion about cardboard shipping boxes by talking about the history of cardboard a little bit. Namely: where does cardboard come from? First of all, cardboard is more or less a general term for some heavy-duty paper. After all, paper towel rolls are still cardboard but they are much thinner and not as strong as something like cardboard shipping boxes.

Wouldn’t you know it, but cardboard first starts out as wood! Unless, of course, we are talking about cardboard made from other recycled cardboard, but when the first cardboard was made it was made of wood. That’s right, trees chipped and then broken down with chemicals into fibers. These fibers then get washed to get rid of the chemicals, and it goes through a series of machines that bleaches it, mixes it, and cuts it up to make a pulp. From there is goes into a machine that converts into a mat of paper.

Cardboard Shipping Boxes

This mat goes through steam rollers that squeeze out any excess water and dry it at the same time, also making sure that it is smooth and even. The drying process is finished, and there is now paper! This paper is then used to make different kinds of cardboard. Cardstock is made by gluing several layers together. If cardboard shipping boxes are being made, then these sheets of cardstock run through a machine that gives it a rippled texture. This is called ‘corrugated’. This is what you see in between the flat cardboard, which is exactly what happens. The newly corrugated sheet is glued in between cardstock and then cut to size. Then people get to have their logo printed it, and all that good stuff.

Wherever you are sitting, take a quick look around and try to see how much cardboard is near you. Okay, for me, I’m seeing a paper towel roll (which is still inside the paper towel but probably not for long, once my kids get up). I see some hardcover textbooks on the desk next to me, which might have some glossy printed pictures on them but underneath that shiny paper is surely cardboard.

Can’t forget the box in the corner, that my brother and sister-in-law shipped massive quantities of Halloween candy in. It’s the first thing my kids ask for every single morning (thanks, guys). Cardboard is everywhere, and even places that aren’t obvious.