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Cardboard shortages as a result of the shift to online retail make it time to plan future packaging needs, a packaging provider says

Making packaging sustainable now comes with a financial incentive for retailers

The rapid shift to online retail in the age of pandemic has resulted in a shortage of cardboard boxes for deliveries, says one packaging provider. Antalis Packaging is urging businesses to talk to their packaging providers now in order to prepare for a year that could again prove challenging. 

John Garner, head of business development at Antalis Packaging, says that the problem comes with the shift from selling via shops to direct online sales, sparked as shops have been ordered to close and shoppers have stayed at home and bought online during Covid-19 lockdowns. 

“The recent problem,” says Garner, “lies partly in the recycling chain as there is a shortage of pulp used to make packaging and this is affecting supply. Pre-pandemic, most deliveries were made directly in bulk to shops and restaurants, and packaging found its way quickly back into the system via established recycling policies and good practices. Today, availability of recovered paper and board is limited, and is expected to decrease further in the future. With high street retail closed, packaging is now going directly to consumers and is taking much longer to reach the recycling chain; and, even if it does, there is a high possibility of it being contaminated from household use or poor consumer disposal practices.”

It is now time for businesses to talk to those who supply their packaging materials, he says, and to consider in particular how they will use packaging over the next peak trading season. 

“Whilst we are optimistic that present supply issues may settle down quickly, this year will be different with the growing demand for packaging expected to be an ongoing trend,” he says. 

With enough planning time, he says, solutions such as using alternative packaging materials and redesigning packaging to cut down on the materials used can be found. Antalis, for example, has a smart packaging lab where new designs and material can be put to work. 

Garner says: “2021 is going to be an interesting year for all sorts of reasons. Availability and lead times are extended, shortage of materials, backlogs at ports are all compounding what is, a difficult situation. We’re likely to see lots of changes and developments.”

He adds: “I would encourage collaboration to cope with the present shortage in supply and future changes like we’ve never seen before. Get advice, take long term action and talk to your packaging supplier now.”

Paris-based Antalis is part of the Japan-headquartered Kokusai Pulp & Paper Group, and operates in 31 countries. 

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