Many of us dispatch our used paper to a bin, the first step on the way to recycling. This household accumulation of paper and cardboard is just one more thing to get rid of.
Luckily, there are designers and artists who see possibilities in all that wood pulp. They're busy using it to create art, decorative accessories, even furniture.
So what you sent to the recycling center just might find its way back, in some form, to your home.
Trent Mayol's company, SmartDeco, designs and makes heavy-duty cardboard furniture that's simple, stylish and easy to put together without tools. The idea came to him when he was a University of Southern California neuroscience major dealing with the packing and logistical hassles of his fifth college-housing move.
"Nobody likes dealing with furniture. Especially those living what we've deemed the 'one-year-lease lifestyle,'" Mayol says. "These people are young, economically savvy, and never in the same place for too long."
SmartDeco's pieces, which include a desk, side table and dressers, are engineered to hold up to 400 pounds, with multiple layers of fiber and a center arched reinforcing panel. Yet they're lightweight and easy to move.
Available in Kraft finish (the natural brown of the cardboard) or white, the Modesto, Calif.-made furniture might appeal particularly to college students, but has enough of a hip look for a wider audience too. Customize the pieces if you want; a plastic snap-on protective shelf cover comes with each one. (www.smartdecofurniture.com)
Seattle design studio Graypants makes striking light fixtures out of repurposed cardboard boxes, in a series called Scraplights. The corrugated cardboard allows light to play dramatically through the fixtures, and it's treated with a nontoxic fire retardant. (www.graypants.com)