The Cardboard Conundrum

With the recent news that ASOS and Boohoo have bought up many of our much-loved high street brands, it is more than obvious that the one sector that is booming in the current covid-environment is online shopping. More people than ever are turning to their phones, laptops and iPads, either by choice and necessity, to buy the items they need, and this isn’t limited to fashion. Whilst it is good news that we are all still buying, the economy is still holding up, and that brands we know and love are being ‘saved’ by online retailers, the world of internet transactions and door to door delivery has had a knock-on impact in areas many people may not have considered. The most recent of these is the supply of cardboard. Reports of cardboard shortages have resulted in all types of online retailers struggling to source boxes and card packaging to deliver their goods. This, in turn, has led to delivery delays.

The issue of packaging has been one that has been rumbling on for an extremely long time and whilst the world has done its utmost to try to reduce the amount of waste that is produced by packaging, it is difficult to imagine a world right now where packaging is minimised. This is particularly true in the online retail. Items need to be properly protected and labelled in order to arrive at their destination intact, so in this sector at least, it seems for now to be a unavoidable element.

So, what’s to be done? This is where the old adage of ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ takes centre stage. If we can’t reduce packaging as much as we’d like, the next step would be to re-use and after that re-cycle.  During the current card shortage some retails have called for customers to bring back boxes for re-use, but this is unlikely to scratch the surface of the issue. Maximising any opportunity for recycling is much closer to the answer – and this is where businesses can really help.

Unsurprisingly, demand for recycled material, due to the pandemic and the surge in online delivery, is high, and as a result its value has increased. Although this has been the case to some extent in the UK, it is perhaps more prevalent in Europe where there are a far larger number of paper mills and therefore a much stronger appetite for waste paper and card to be recycled.

So how can organisations help address this shortage?

It is unlikely that anyone would argue against the merits of using recycled materials to produce the increasing volumes of packaging that are currently needed. Therefore, ensuring we capture as much used card and paper as possible for recycling is a must.

Keeping it clean

It is often wrongly assumed that any form of paper and card is ripe for recycling. Whilst it is true that ultimately any material does have the capacity to be recycled, it is much easier, cheaper, effective and financially viable to recycle materials that are in good condition. When it comes to paper and card, this means segregated, clean and dry. Damp, oily, food stained cardboard such as pizza boxes or old paper and card that has been mixed with tins or cans with food or liquid residue are much less fit for purpose than card and paper that has been kept clean dry and separated. Ensuring your organisation reduces contamination by having clearly labelled bins for collecting different waste streams separately is an easy way to recycle more efficiently.

Close and compact

Many environmentally conscious companies are great at segregating waste, especially card, plastic and cans, but not all of them are aware of the benefits that compaction equipment provides. Using a compactor or baler ensures all the great work doesn’t go to ‘waste’. Instead, compaction allows businesses to ensure all of this waste remains clean and dry in one place. The machinery then  squashes it all together to make it easier and cheaper to store and transport once the machine is full. A baler actively creates this waste into readymade ‘bales’ that can be lifted onto you recycling partner’s vehicles for more efficient transport to the next stage of the recycling process. What’s more, some recycling companies, such as Cawleys, also offer rebates for compressed and baled materials.

Ultimately, making small changes such as these could really help the current problem of the card shortage whilst reducing the reliance on raw materials. The phenomenon of online shopping, and the packaging requirements that come with it, are unlikely to change anytime soon, so maybe now is the ideal time to re-think your organisations’ recycling arrangements and make changes that will help the environment now and into the future.

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