Wellesley RDF relearning: Cardboard vs. Chipboard vs. Boxboard

If you haven’t been by the Wellesley Recycling & Disposal Facility (RDF) lately, give yourself an extra minute to adjust to a reorganization and updated signs in the recycling section at the start of the loop. Though read on and we’ll help you prepare for this slight change to your routine.

RDF new signs

The chip board and box board collection area—for your empty shoe boxes, cereal boxes, etc.—has been moved away from cardboard and corrugated cartons at the end of row, and to the left of newspapers. Meanwhile, cardboard, like your standard Amazon boxes, has been mashed up with brown paper bags. So no more dumping all your chip and box board and cardboard together like would inevitably happen when they were next to each other. As if they were all the same.

I’d been aware of the changes before I stopped by Monday morning, and sure enough, the first thing I came across was a guy and a young girl, with the girl rushing up to the cardboard slot and the guy saying: “Wait, they’ve switched everything around!” And later, “What’s chipboard anyway?”

Soon after,, a woman lugging her cardboard and chipboard arrived at the cardboard section. She looked up at the sign, paused, looked at her stuff, and tossed it all in.

As a pillar of the sustainability community, I dumped our cardboard and paper bags in their allotted section, and rid myself of our chipboard in its dedicated section.

cardboard brown paper bags
Photo courtesy of Patrick Rafter


chip board box board
Photo courtesy of Patrick Rafter


RDF Superintendent Jamie Manzolini is aware that the change could cause a bit of confusion and earlier this week was readying a sign with a picture of chip board and box board designed to help people out. Chip board and box board, he says, are two names for the same thing. Same for cardboard and corrugated cartons, he says.

“We understand that it will take a little while to have people acclimated,” he says. “The picture will help a little as I understand that not all people know these industry terms.”

Perhaps the more curious change is the mixing of brown paper bags and cardboard. Manzolini says brown paper bags have the same fibers and value as cardboard, so that’s why they are now combined.

The change at the RDF coincides with a change at the Swellesley home front about how we organize our recyclables before carting them to the dump. Out are the hard plastic tubs, which were both yucky and cracked, and in are these stylish reusable bags.


I’ll admit I felt a tad fancy trotting these out on Monday, but I’m pretty sure no one batted an eye at my masked up and sunglass-wearing self. Plus, Mrs. Swellesley reveals that she purchased the bags through a Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild fundraiser, which supports efforts such as beautifying Wellesley post offices with window boxes. So how could I not feel good about that?

swellesley green ad