Brits hoarding more than 135 million cardboard boxes is causing paper prices to rise

The pandemic has seen an increase in the amount of cardboard packaging in people’s homes, with the nation’s hoarding of boxes meaning that valuable raw material is being kept out of the recycling system 

New data from sustainable packaging provider DS Smith shows that 44% of Brits admit to hoarding cardboard boxes – with a massive 135 million believed to be sitting in sheds, garages, and wardrobes.

Over half of Brits surveyed (52%) said the amount of cardboard packaging in their homes has increased since the pandemic, with 66% of those blaming more online shopping, and 28% holding on to boxes without any clear motive – simply because “they might be useful in the future.”  However, the hoarding habit, while seemingly harmless, is actually keeping raw materials out of the hands of recycling companies and causing paper prices to rise.

DS Smith head of recycling Rogier Gerritsen said: “Since the pandemic began there’s been a major shift in consumer shopping habits and we’ve seen a huge rise in people ordering more items online, accumulating more boxes as a result.

“But, while some put these boxes to good use – re-using them for storage, arts and crafts, or to ship other items – many boxes are sitting unused and not finding their way back into recycling streams. It means that materials are at best getting delayed in reaching recyclers, and at worse not getting to them at all”.

DS Smith is a circular business and has a 14-day ‘box to box’ model, meaning it can take the boxes it makes, then collect, recycle and convert them into new boxes all within 14 days. As well as being Europe’s largest cardboard and paper recycler, the company is committed to leading the transition to the circular economy. It globally manufactures billions of boxes from recycled fibre every year and finds solutions for its customers that replaces problem plastics, and removes carbon from supply chains.

Further data from DS Smith showed that 20% of Brits are holding on to between five and 10 boxes, with 10% hoarding 10 to 19, and 4% confessing to having at least 20 boxes stowed away at home.  Those who admit to hoarding say that the most popular places to store them are in the garage, a wardrobe or cupboard, or in the shed.

Of those who have seen an increase in cardboard packaging within their homes, 15% say they are keeping boxes for arts and crafts projects, while around a quarter use them for storage, and the same amount use them for shipping other items. Disturbingly, 22% say there isn’t enough room in their recycling bin or bag to dispose of the boxes, with nearly one in 10 saying they don’t actually know how to recycle them, and the same number not knowing where to recycle them.

Furthermore, a total of 11% of Brits admit to throwing cardboard packaging in the general waste bin with 8% even saying that they burn it.

Mr Gerritsen added: “Unfortunately, these results once again show the need for a better, clearer infrastructure to help ensure what should get recycled does get recycled.  We recently showed that 49% of British households admit to completely running out of space in their recycling bins, with a quarter saying this happens every two weeks or more.

“Changes and reforms that make it clearer and easier for people to recycle at home would ensure far more of these valuable materials get used again and again, reducing our impact on the environment.”

Confederation of Paper Industries director of raw materials Simon Weston said: “We know cardboard boxes can be useful around the home and encourage people to re-use them where possible, but where they aren’t re-used and instead hoarded, they represent untapped resources that could be recycled to make new products. Britain currently has millions of these boxes laying idle in cupboards, sheds and garages, and we would ask anyone who is stowing them away to instead recycle them responsibly, so the raw materials can be put back into practical use.”