The dramatic shift to online shopping, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, has sent the price of cardboard soaring amid supply shortages.
There has been more than a tenfold rise in the price of cardboard since the start of the crisis, leaving UK businesses scrambling for box supplies.
The prices of old cardboard used to make new boxes rose from £10 ($14) a tonne in January 2020 to up to £118 a tonne last month, new data from letsrecycle.com showed.
The shortage is due to demand from online sellers such as Amazon (AMZN), as well as border disruption and stockpiling caused by Brexit, the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) said.
There is also a delay in getting pulp fibres back into the recycling chain that are used to make further packaging boxes and corrugated boards.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, which represents cardboard makers, told the FT 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.”
Home delivery company ParcelHero warned that the shortage could lead to delays in its delivery times, damaged parcels and increased charges.
David Jinks, ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, said: “The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) says demand for cardboard boxes from online retailers is five years ahead of pre-pandemic levels.
“On top of this increased demand, lockdown means packaging is taking longer to be recycled because shops and restaurants, when they are open, recycle more quickly than domestic users. Add to the mix packaging being stockpiled in warehouses because of Brexit, and there’s little wonder there is a severe shortage.”
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