It may be the height of summer but we’re already thinking ahead to winter. If you’re an online retailer, the chances are, you’re doing the same. But rather than focussing on what you’ll be selling, your thoughts may be turning to how you’re actually going to get your products to your customers. We still find ourselves in the grip of a cardboard crisis and the latest information suggests that the next six months are going to be just as tough. So what can be done?

Did how we shopped last Christmas contribute to the cardboard crisis?

As you would have guessed, we all took to the internet for our festive shopping in 2020. UK Finance said that 33.8% of the value of ALL credit and debit card spending was online. This was an increase from 28% the previous year. To put that into perspective, Christmas online spending totalled £27 billion in the UK, and interestingly 43% of global online purchases were made from smartphones. This was against a background of continuing uncertainty as we headed towards a ‘segregated’ Christmas.

Stunning silver Zigglefil - eco-friendly void fill

Stunning silver Zigglefil – eco-friendly void fill

What this meant was that the majority of gifts and presents found themselves delivered to relatives and loved ones in cardboard boxes and packaging courtesy of the retailer’s courier network boxes rather than in person.  Many consumers took advantage of gift wrap options where available and that’s something to keep in mind for this year if you’re an online retailer and not set up for this Christmas, you can see some gift wrapping and product presentation ideas here. Many were sent to the buyer, re-wrapped and then re-posted out again to relatives in time for Christmas. This kept cardboard out of circulation for recycling for even longer and the increased demand depleted already dwindling supplies.

The Recycling Association reported that there were an extra 200 million home deliveries over the festive period. All this additional activity and use of cardboard boxes have all played their part in the cardboard crisis we find ourselves in now. There are further reasons that contributed to this situation and resulting price hikes which you can read about here.

The cardboard crisis affecting and driven by eCommerce

Just looking at Royal Mail parcel deliveries alone, nearly 500 million parcels were delivered in the last quarter of 2020, an increase of 30% on the previous year. And as we head into 2021, there are indicators that this trend will continue with 46% of shoppers purchasing items such as clothing and accessories online, as well as electronics and beauty products. The way we shop and what we now shop for online has changed forever and this, in turn, means an ever-increasing demand for cardboard boxes.

When you throw sustainability and consumer desire for eco-friendly packaging into the mix,  corrugated cardboard and paper packaging ticks all the boxes with 66% of online customers preferring to see their orders arriving in paper packaging.  And a very telling statistic shows that the packaging used for online orders can make or break future orders with 44% stating they would consider shopping elsewhere if their chosen retailer was not actively reducing their packaging’s environmental impact by using cardboard and paper packaging.

And when you look at the recycling rates, corrugated boxes are recycled more than any other packaging material, it’s easy to see why this is the consumer’s top choice and will vote with their ‘online feet’ accordingly! Consumers want to do their bit and expect the brands they shop with to do the same.

What’s the cardboard crisis forecast for Christmas 2021?

Our suppliers had already warned us that getting hold of paper in this second quarter of this year is going to be more challenging than at any time before in this crisis. We were in rather a better position having secured plenty of stock of eco-friendly packaging in anticipation of launching our new NEST eCommerce packaging range. 

Christmas is such an important time for retailers and their customers and if you’re sending fragile items such as glassware or delicate gift items, you’ll want to know that they will arrive in perfect condition, especially if you’re looking at trying something new to send it in.  Asking for free samples is a great way to see the products and do some testing. Any good supplier will be happy to oblige and we have certainly completed our own testing to ensure our products perform, have good functionality and will become a real asset to the production line and the boxing-up process.

So what are the indications for cardboard box supply for Q4?

It would seem there will be no let-up to the current cardboard crisis and is predicted to worsen as we head through the final 6 months.  As we go to press, there is nothing on the horizon that indicates prices are due to come down.  This is the general consensus coming from the paper mills and suppliers we are in contact with and work with. This will obviously be a concern for online retailers who are looking for ways to mitigate losses due to cardboard packaging shortages with the double-whammy of price hikes.

Working collaboratively with a trusted packaging supplier is the best way to navigate this cardboard crisis. Ask them about alternative ecofriendly innovative products and ensure that they perform as well as their plastic counterparts.  Trying something different is a good way to find plentiful supplies of stock. It could make all the difference to your preparation towards successful Q4 sales.

You can take a look at our entire eco-friendly packaging NEST range here to see full pricing and usage ideas. And if you would like some free samples to do your own testing, please just pop us a request using the form below.

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12 months that saw prices for cardboard boxes rise ten-fold

As UK society takes more tentative steps towards recovery in a post-Covid world, international markets have been faced with everchanging circumstances and trying to navigate through them – as indeed we all have. We all saw petrol prices plummet when we went into the first lockdown due to a drop in demand as we all stayed at home. Other commodities in sharp contrast have been in huge demand as well as being impacted by unforeseen events. So, we are going to try to explain the contributory factors behind the price hikes for cardboard boxes and why it’s now been coined the hunt for the new ‘beige gold’!

How cardboard boxes became hot property

So how did this all start?

Well as you have probably guessed, the 2 main reasons behind this have been Covid and Brexit – but what is interesting is just how these factors played their part in price rises and supply shortages.

The cardboard ‘lifecycle’ very much depends and relies on recycling. Before the pandemic, high street retailers played a huge part in this recycling process, returning used cardboard boxes for recycling that arrived in-store. With the start of lockdown, non-essential retail closed and along with that came the seismic shift to eCommerce and home deliveries – this situation turned into a perfect storm. This meant a significant amount of cardboard was no longer available for that all-important collection and recycling. The reality was it was all piling up in consumer’s homes or worse, ending up in the landfill. The delicate circular economy of the manufacture of cardboard boxes collapsed.

The impact of eCommerce on box supply

And so started the next chain of events

Doorstep deliveries in cardboard boxes

Doorstep deliveries in cardboard boxes

Non-essential shops were closed. With consumers afraid to go out and visit even essential shops such as supermarkets – the UK took to buying online. People who had never shopped online before were forced to do so. Consumers were panic buying ahead of Brexit and after seeing the shelves stripped bare in supermarkets. A year ago, retailers were predicting that the way we shop could change forever as 33% more of us switched to getting our groceries delivered at home. By August of last year, three-quarters of us were doing the weekly food shop online.

Online retailers were also stockpiling cardboard boxes out of their own concerns about supply, Brexit and border disruptions. Businesses such as pubs, breweries, garden centres, flower growers and nurseries and charities all had to suddenly pivot their businesses online to survive. And what did they all need? Cardboard boxes!

Demand continued to grow, reaching record levels of online purchasing with an increase of over 74% – pushing box supply into further scarcity.  There were winners and also losers and if you were a retailer in the home and garden space, the only issue was being able to keep up with demand! The Royal Mail reported that there were over 200 million extra parcels processed through their courier networks in 2020 alone.

Cardboard supply in 2021

As we entered 2021, prices of old board had risen to £118 a tonne compared to £10 in January 2020. An article at the beginning of this year described the UK supply chain as “utterly overwhelmed” for corrugated board. At the same time, online retailers were being quoted double the normal cost to purchase their cardboard boxes and lead times being extended from a matter of days to two to three months.

In March this year, the Confederation of Paper Industries said that demand was 5 years ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

Simon Ellin, of the Recycling Association, stated the shortage was down to the “Amazon effect”. “There is a monumental increase in demand caused by the surge in online deliveries during the pandemic,” he said. “It’s a global shortage – not just the UK or EU – given huge demand from China. People are going around stealing cardboard.”

Current prices of old board are being reported at levels around £140.00 per tonne so the last few months are still showing strong price increases.

A look to the future with eCommerce and cardboard boxes

The affect of internet sales on cardboard boxes

The continuing rise of internet sales will impact the supply of cardboard boxes

The mills and manufacturers we work with are continuing to talk of extremely difficult conditions. Mills have been operating non-stop with machinery running in continuous and additional shifts without planned and reactive maintenance. They are now being forced to stop in turn to carry out these essential works.

We are being told that we should be in no doubt that getting hold of paper in this second quarter of this year is going to be more difficult than at anytime before in this crisis. Here are the 4 current factors, some we have looked at already, that will continue to dictate price and supply:

  • Mill downtime
  • Cost of imported paper up by 40% 
  • Waste supply and prices
  • Panic buying

Paper supply will continue to remain tight for the rest of 2021 – there is no doubt of this. We will have to all prepare for further increases in the very near future. Our best advice? Work closely with your supplier and continue to relentlessly monitor and manage your own supplies. You may have to make concessions such as using non-branded boxes or work with box sizes that aren’t your top choices. Investigating different void fill to make the most of different sized boxes may be worthwhile too. Make sure you look at your own forecasting and get orders into your suppliers as quickly as possible.

There is also no doubt that the UK’s love affair with eCommerce, born out of necessity from shopping restrictions due to Covid, will continue to grow. Last year, it was forecasted that we would spend £80,678 million in 2021 according to Statista so the struggle for cardboard boxes is definitely with us a while longer.

Need support or advice? We’re here to help. Just drop us a quick email and we’ll get right back to you.

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Six benefits of eco-friendly packaging

Now more than ever, corporations and communities are realising the threat that climate change poses. While undoing the damage that has already been caused is impossible, we can prevent further damage to the environment. The fact of the matter is that changes have to be made if the situation is to improve. Companies must exercise corporate social responsibility by ditching the past and moving forward with renewables to promote a more ethically conscious business climate. A significant step towards accomplishing this is making the shift to eco-friendly packaging materials.

What makes packaging eco-friendly?

With sustainability constantly trending in the social and corporate spheres, many people may wonder what constitutes as sustainable, and in the context of packaging, what makes a package sustainable? The answer is not as complicated as you may think.

At its very essence, eco-friendly or sustainable packaging is packaging that’s recyclable, safe for people and the planet, and is made from recycled materials. Sustainable packaging uses materials and manufacturing practices that have minimal impact on natural resources and energy consumption.

Why should we care?

Eco-friendly packaging

Eco-friendly packaging

The fact of the matter is that there is no future in limited resources. The role that packaging plays in reducing product waste can result in a positive environmental impact on a global scale. This is both interesting and significant. Packaging indirectly affects volume and weight, which can in turn, reduce transportation dramatically and ultimately contribute to reducing greenhouse gases. Simply put, we cannot overstate the importance of investigating what affect shifting to sustainable packaging might have on our communities, companies, and the environment.

Even McDonalds is joining the movement; the global fast-food giant announced that its packaging will be 100% renewable and recycled by 2025. Consumers want brands to practice their social responsibility, so implementing eco-friendly packaging in your business operations is no longer an option – it’s a necessity.

What are the benefits of using sustainable packaging?

Besides the obvious one: that it’s better for the environment – there are many benefits of shifting to sustainable packaging options. The benefits of switching to sustainable or green packaging solutions include:

  • Reducing the amount of product package waste
  • Endorsing the use of renewable/reusable materials
  • Cutting back on packaging-related costs
  • Eliminating the use of toxic materials in the production of packaging
  • Decreasing your carbon footprint
  • Improving overall brand image which in turn increases your fan base

What Are Some Popular Eco-friendly Packaging Solutions?

Paper tape on parcel

Paper tape on parcel

It’s a common misconception that shifting to a more eco-friendly option means you skimp on quality, when in fact, green packaging is often more durable. In addition, sustainable packaging solutions offer brands a variety of packaging options. With so many eco-friendly alternatives on the market at competitive prices, more businesses are investigating their options. Packaging tape is one area where significant improvements can be made with products like paper tape, which is completely environmentally friendly meaning it can go straight into kerbside recycling. You also need to use much less of it compared to standard vinyl tape so there is a cost saving there too.

Another innovative green packaging product is the Grip Film system. A high performance, pre-stretched pallet wrap that reduces plastic wastage by 40% and costs by up to 25%. This eco-friendly wrapping solution is quick, easy, safe, and offers a cost-effective option to wrapping pallets every single time.

Shifting To Sustainable Packaging Solutions In 2021

If you want to make the shift to introducing more sustainable packaging options into your business operations, there’s no better time to go green. Green packaging can reduce the amount of packaging you use, promote packaging reuse, decrease your carbon footprint and save you tax with the impending plastic packaging tax looming in 2021. These are crucial aspects to your business and your bottom line.

We’re committed to helping you leverage these critical points with our range of sustainable packaging products. We can help you create a sustainable and eco-friendly packaging approach that boosts your brand, products, and operations. After all, we only have one earth and must band together to make the change – starting with one eco-friendly package at a time!

Some eco-friendly packaging options to think about

NEST eco-friendly packaging solutions for ecommerce

Paper tape

Grip Film hand pallet wrap

iWrap machine pallet wrap


Need some help to get started? We’re here to help – just pop us an email using the form below

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