Pulp Magic

MAY 30, 2017

Cardboard Is Awesome

Over at Howlifeunfolds.com, we’ve compiled a bunch of great ideas for upcycling cardboard boxes as bedside storage units, magazine organizers, and incredibly intricate desk organizers.  There seems to be a subset of the Maker culture that is just as obsessed with cardboard as we are.

It reminds us of how remarkably useful cardboard is.  And frankly, cardboard doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  I mean, how many materials combine strength and pliability in such perfect proportions as corrugated cardboard does?  Not many.

It’s not an exaggeration to say the world changed for the better when Albert Jones received a patent for corrugated cardboard in 1871.  Since then, we’ve got an inexpensive, easy to make, even easier to recycle, strong, soft, ridged, flexible, ubiquitous means of packing and shipping pretty much anything.

Today, more than 90% of all products in the U.S. are shipped in corrugated cardboard packages. Amazon alone ships about 1.6 million of those boxes every day.

So, what do you do with all those boxes after they’re used? Almost anything, as it turns out.

You can make dollhouses from them, reproduce the great cities of Europe with them, make sleek office furniture out of cardboard, or race your friends in cardboard boats (not recommended).

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Until recently, competing to build the largest cardboard box fort was a popular way to use old boxes. Nick Clark of Utah set the first record in 2009 with a fort made of 238 boxes. Since then box forts became all the rage on college campuses with Harvard, Duke, and Brigham Young University one-upping each other and the number of boxes growing steadily over the years from 500 to 1,000 to 2,000.

Finally, Nick Clark had had enough and not only did he regain his title in 2014, he did so with a fort made of 12,301 boxes – more than double the previous record – and so demoralized his competitors that the record remains unassailable to this day.

The box fort fad on campus was a way of highlighting the amazing recyclability of corrugated cardboard . . . and for good reason. Recycled cardboard uses only 75% of the energy needed to make new cardboard and can be recycled up to 8 times before the fibers finally break down. Those qualities help explain why the recycling rate for old corrugated containers (OCC) reached about 93% in 2015 and is still increasing.

But perhaps the most remarkable use of cardboard is as a landing strip for a guy in a wingsuit. In 2012, British stuntman Gary Connery jumped from a helicopter 2,400 feet above a 12-foot high stack of 18,600 corrugated cardboard boxes . . . without a parachute. After falling for about 40 seconds he hit the cardboard runaway safe and sound. The stiffness and flexibility of the boxes combined with the mass of the enclosed air were able to absorb the impact of the falling stuntman. This proves – among everything else – that you can trust your life to cardboard.  See for yourself.   https://youtu.be/DEP8juRSBRo.

Cardboard is a remarkable material and I think you agree it deserves a little respect every now and then.