Packaging and delivery firms advise on cardboard shortage

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, February 15, 2021

Packaging and delivery specialists have urged businesses to plan their needs in advance and seek alternatives as cardboard box supply continues to be impacted.

Antalis is optimistic that present supply issues may settle down quickly
Antalis is optimistic that present supply issues may settle down quickly

As reported last week, the market is currently experiencing a shortage in obtaining cardboard boxes and corrugated board for deliveries.

Covid-19 has brought about an acceleration in the transition to online purchasing. This has had a significant impact on the use of packaging as the need for businesses to get orders out of the door quickly has become a priority.

There is a delay in getting pulp fibres back into the recycling chain that are used to make further packaging boxes and corrugated board. This and other factors hitting the supply chain are combining to create the current shortage in packaging material.

Antalis Packaging said the situation is leaving many businesses with a logistical problem and has advised them to consider their planning for peak periods well in advance.

“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,” said Antalis head of business development for packaging John Garner.

“The recent problem 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.” 

But Antalis added businesses could use alternative packaging materials, clever packaging design to minimise material use, and good planning to get around the current shortages.

“Antalis is renowned for finding packaging solutions, whether this is a bespoke pack design, a more efficient box size or shape or the use of a new packaging material,” said Garner.

“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.”

Home delivery specialist ParcelHero, meanwhile, cautioned that the cardboard shortage could lead to delays in deliveries, damaged parcels and increased charges.

ParcelHero head of consumer research David Jinks described the situation as “a boxing match that looks like delivering a knockout blow to some smaller retailers” but warned companies having difficulties in sourcing packaging against cutting corners.

“It's very tempting to reuse an old box but, if that’s all senders can find, they should be really careful. A reused box will have been weakened so it has a greater potential to collapse or worse, break open.

“It’s vitally important everyone sending parcels uses sturdy packaging that can withstand shocks and does not allow items to move inside.

“Imagine the journey of a typical carboard package: it will probably be placed in a van; moved to a distribution centre conveyor belt; loaded onto a lorry and then, if it’s an overseas parcel, transferred into the bellyhold of an aircraft. That process requires a sturdy, correctly sized cardboard outer box.”

He added: ‘We recommend only reusing a box if it is still strong, undamaged, rigid and robust. Check for signs of damage, particularly creasing to the box sides and tears or dents to the box seams. These are tell-tale signs of a risky, weak box.

“If individuals and traders are sending goods abroad in reused carboard packaging, they could also face unexpectedly high fees. That’s because international air freight is billed on the basis of size and weight. If an item is quite small but packed in a reused large box it is likely to incur unnecessarily high costs.

“That’s because both space and weight inside an aircraft is restricted. A carrier will charge on weight or volume – calculated as volumetric weight – whichever is the greater.”

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