The One Thing You Don’t Have to Worry About This Holiday Season
The press celebrate the holidays, too. That means that newsrooms find the end of the year just as frenzied, and themselves just as frazzled, as the rest of us. It also means that they like to plan ahead, to have a few “evergreen” pieces—I won’t apologize for the pun!—ready to go so they can hit their child’s holiday play or make an appearance at the holiday party.
And that’s why, like clockwork, we get a glut of stories in November and December about ecommerce and the ubiquitous cardboard box.
I get it. More and more shopping is done online every year and we are on track for the biggest ecommerce holiday season yet, a projected $135.35 billion in sales, which means more and more packaging is going to our front doors instead of in the stockroom of our local department store, and the effect is at its peak during the holiday shopping season. So we notice those boxes more.
What makes less sense is the way some of these stories pair the post-Black-Friday, post-Small-Business-Saturday, post-Cyber-Monday boom in package deliveries with narratives about the supposed challenges of recycling.
A few years ago, global markets for U.S. recyclables were jolted by some major changes, especially in China. And for a while, we saw a lot of coverage of cargo ships full of recovered paper and plastic sitting idly at piers. It was discouraging. But markets did what markets do: they adapted. And as soon as 2018, we saw increases in the amount of recovered fiber from paper and boxes that we were exporting, including to China, so that they could be remade into new products (the fiber in our paper-based products can be reused at least seven times).
It’s true that some other materials may still be facing challenges, but news in the world of paper has been consistently good.
Well, according to the most recent data, paper and paperboard is the most recycled material in the country, accounting for more than two-thirds of everything that gets recycled. More tons of paper are recovered from municipal recycling programs than glass, plastic, steel and aluminum combined, according to the EPA.
In short, it’s hard to think of a product that is more recyclable, or more often recycled, than the product that is too often used as a symbol of holiday waste. The good news is that consumers aren’t being fooled. Our data shows that everyday Americans not only rely on corrugated, but that they find it easy to recycle, and feel good about a product that can be reused, recovered, and even composted, not to mention sources from a renewable resource.
For some, the urge to pair the evergreen, holiday ecommerce story with a readymade narrative about the “recycling crisis” is too much to resist. But leave cardboard boxes out of it. We’re crushing it on recycling, not just during the holiday, but 365 days a year.