Is Cardboard Vegan? (2022 UPDATE)

Is Cardboard Vegan?

Many types of cardboard get a good environmental scorecard, especially when compared to single-use plastics. They are often manufactured from reclaimed materials and can be further recycled once used.

In the US, cardboard is so popular that over 90 percent of shipped items are carried in it. Including tech products that we write about here. But is this commonly used and often eco-friendly item vegan?

Is Cardboard Vegan?

If you’re a vegan who not only seeks to limit any possible animal product use but to exclude it completely, then the answer is generally no. If your aim in being vegan is to minimize where possible and practical, the use of animal products, then yes, most cardboard is likely to be vegan.

Let’s take a further look.

When Cardboard Is Vegan

Whether you consider cardboard to be vegan comes down to definitions of veganism and the type of cardboard you select. If your aim in being vegan is to minimize where possible and practical the use of animal products, then yes, most cardboard is likely to be vegan.

Of the types of non-vegan ingredients that could occur in cardboard, one of the most notable is glue. These days most companies use glues that are petroleum or plant-based rather than animal product-based. Any inks used to mark the cardboard are likely to be soy or vegetable-based and thus vegan.

Soy-based inks have the added eco-advantage of making the cardboard easier to recycle.

When Cardboard Isn’t Vegan

If, however, you wish to exclude any products that may contain animal derivatives and have come into contact with them during the production process, you may classify certain cardboards as non-vegan.

Very few vegans would consider petroleum non-vegan; however, because it is sourced from the dead microscopic organism, some vegans may also prefer to avoid it.

In both these instances, you can choose a brand that is guaranteed vegan-friendly by the manufacturer.

Cardboard Packaging
Cardboard Packaging

Why Major Brands Don’t Disclose if Their Cardboard is Vegan

The list of possible products included in items, either as ingredients or during the production process, is extensive. It’s also rather complicated. Peta has a list, but unfortunately, your cardboard items are unlikely to be on it.

It seems not to be in the interests of major brands to either investigate or release information that will ensure customers of an entirely vegan product.

Another aspect is that obtaining vegan certification can be an expensive process. If the cardboard in question is being made from recycled materials this calls an extra layer of complexity into the question. Is my cardboard vegan if it is made from recycled materials that were in themselves not entirely vegan?

No manufacturer can answer this for you. Ultimately the decision as to whether any cardboard product is vegan rests on you, and perhaps a consideration of the types of glue used.

Is the Glue in Cardboard Vegan?

While cardboard manufacturers may be somewhat reticent to declare their products vegan, the same cannot be said in the adhesives trade. There are a number of prominent glue brands that have attested to the vegan nature of their products.

These glues are petroleum-based synthetics that contain no animal products along with some other alternatives. The issue here is not so much the unavailability of vegan glue options, but rather determining which glue has been used in particular cardboard.

As a general guide, carton-sealing adhesives are often synthetic and thus vegan. Animal-content adhesives may still be used in lower-quality binding. Some examples are telephone books and junk mail. Often this material gets recycled to make other types of cardboard like the corrugated variety.

Is Corrugated Cardboard Vegan?

Corrugated Cardboard
Corrugated Cardboard

Corrugated cardboard, which accounts for a lot of cardboard use, is often made from the recycled content of post-consumer material. While the glues used in corrugated cardboard are most likely vegan, the adhesives used in their materials may not be.

For many vegans, the fact that corrugated cardboard is a recycled and environmentally sustainable product that uses no animal products in its primary production would be sufficient to classify it as vegan.

Other positive attributes of corrugated cardboard that may appeal to eco-conscious vegans are that it’s made from less raw material with equal strength, it can accept non-toxic water-based inks, can remain unbleached, and is recycled to make chipboard and a wide range of paper products.

If, however, you wish to completely abstain from anything that may have even a trace of animal products involved in its development, then perhaps corrugated cardboard isn’t for you.

Are There Companies Selling Exclusively Vegan Cardboard?

A web search will turn up brands that are indeed selling vegan cardboard, though it may not technically be certified as such. Most of these companies will also focus on making their packaging items eco-friendly.

For this reason, petroleum, while technically okay for most vegans will be tossed aside for more bio-degradable alternatives. Increasingly, cardboard manufacturers and also the companies that use their items for packaging are responding to the global consumer call for products that are sustainable.

For many businesses this sees them switching from plastic use to the more environmentally friendly, and more vegan, option of corrugated cardboard. If you’re searching for a brand of vegan cardboard look for one that makes its materials from responsibly sourced paper pulp.

Choose a company that uses soy or vegetable-based inks rather than petroleum ones as these are kinder to the environment while also being vegan.

With so much to consider it may be tempting as a vegan to skip the cardboard altogether! Remember that as a vegan you don’t need to make choices that are one hundred percent perfect, in fact, it’s likely to be impossible.

Instead, you can focus on making the best pro-animal and pro-environment choices out of the available options. Cardboard, and in particular corrugate cardboard, is an excellent option for a product that is sturdy, recyclable, compostable, and produced in an environmentally responsible manner.