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How used cardboard boxes can save struggling ecommerce businesses from the fold

Image: Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock

The pandemic has led to online sales hitting a 13-year high, and though this has benefitted the booming eCommerce industry, the negative consequences are piling up – quite literally, with excess cardboard boxes swamping recycling and waste disposal centres.

For consumers and businesses alike, cardboard boxes have become a problem. It was recently found that 46% of people ordered items online that they previously only ever bought in-store. This shift in consumer behaviour has led to a spike in cardboard-packaged deliveries and, in turn, astronomical waste. 

Waste management centres are overwhelmed by excess cardboard refuse. While the availability of cardboard boxes has plummeted, its prices have skyrocketed. And that’s not all – consumers are looking for eCommerce brands to operate in eco-friendly ways, with 74% pushing for online fashion retailers to reduce the amount of packaging they use.

“The appetite for e-commerce remains strong, and with the recent online retail boom, we need to think carefully about how we manage cardboard waste. Otherwise we risk overwhelming recycling centres and council waste management teams,” says Mike Nicholls, Commercial Director at Whitespace.

Fortunately, there’s a tidy solution to this problem: reuse. While consumers may well be putting boxes to good use for storinbg thinsg in the loft, there are also things that smaller ecommerce business can do. Why not buy in used boxes and use those?

There are companies pushing zero-waste initiatives, which are now offering to buy and sell used cardboard boxes. This option brings with it many key benefits. For starters, it’s less expensive, but with the same quality assurance as new cardboard boxes. Secondly, it’s more environmentally friendly than recycling, and reduces the strain on waste management centres.

Interestingly, for smaller business that may have a surfit of boxes from their own wholesale orders, there is actualluy money to be made from reselling boxes. Some companies, says Nicholls, are offering to pay more for used cardboard boxes than baled cardboard rates. “For example, family-run business, Sadlers, does this and even guarantees a fixed price rate for three years,” he says.

With cardboard prices expected to rise and a shortage of corrugated materials anticipated, ecommerce brands looking for eco-friendly ways to conduct their business would do well to explore the world of reused cardboard boxes. It’s not only green friendly, but financially savvy. 

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