Open cardboard boxes/crates, often for foodstuffs, are often glued to hold their shape. What is the glue/adhesive made of?

I ask to know if it is biodegradable, such that it is suitable for composting/gardening.

My preliminary research seems to indicate polyvinyl acetate (PVA), which seems to biodegrade fast enough for my application.

See example box (from CTHOE at Wikimedia): enter image description here

Sorry if this is the wrong Exchange, it seemed the most suitable for my question.

  • $\begingroup$ I found this report on adhesives for packaging in the European Union. It contains information about the different adhesives used, including natural ones. I believe you will be seeking an adhesive based on natural polymers, such as vegetable polymers, as they are biodegradable. Good luck! Link to report: ilsi.eu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/12/… $\endgroup$
    – Liam
    Jul 26, 2019 at 19:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks @Liam! I'm looking for what is in general use, not for my own use. The report you link to seem to answer just that question. It seems to indicate that PVAc, PU, and acrylic polymers are used and also hotmelt adhesives. On my example picture glue running down on the interior wall in the back. I suppose that is a hotmelt adhesive? $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2019 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ I would also assume that it is a hot melt adhesive from looking at the photo. $\endgroup$
    – Liam
    Jul 28, 2019 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ The best example for misunderstanding of biodegradability. PVAc, PU, and acrylic polymers degrade slow. The only thing because these glues are used, if they degrade they produce less harmful substances and that is why they are used in the food industry. $\endgroup$
    – deuti
    Feb 18, 2021 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


Because the glue is not in direct contact with food you can use basically any glue. And cardboard is easy to glue so there is no limitation. Packaging should be cheap and therefore I would not expect a biodegradable glue.


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