Online Shipping Boom Creates Massive ‘Cardboard Footprint’ From Boxes


CHICAGO (WLS) – Fast deliveries are just a click away, all in a cardboard box. The I-Team and the Chicago Sun-Times have discovered a vast trail of excess waste that exposes your “cardboard footprint.”

For months, Jason Knowles, ABC 7 Consumer Investigator, the I-Team, and Sun-Times Consumer Investigator Stephanie Zimmerman, took note of the small items that came in large boxes filled with excessive packaging. One oversized box contained a very small bundle of razors, another medium box contained small batteries wrapped with lots of plastic padding.

All this at a time when deliveries are exploding. The U.S. Department of Commerce said e-commerce sales for 2018 were over $ 513 billion, an increase of more than 14% in a single year.

Samantha Doerfler said she regularly shopped online.

“With the two boys, we are very busy. We run sports, at school, at other activities. So sometimes I just don’t have time to run in all the stores,” he said. she declared.

Amazon revealed that in 2017, it shipped over 5 billion items worldwide, to Prime customers alone.

The I-Team and the Chicago Sun-Times wanted to know how all those cardboard boxes stacked up.

“It could have a significant impact. And the problem is that if there is less cardboard available, we have to go back to the raw material, which is trees. So we can increase our consumption of trees to respond in some way. at our board request, “said Jennifer Dunn, research director at Northwestern Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering.

A company that sells reusable packaging said the growth of the shipping industry by 2021 will equal 1 billion trees consumed.

“Do you really need that plastic filling? Knowles asked Eric Masanet, associate professor of engineering at Northwestern University.

“Probably not for a product like this, which is quite durable. It could have been put in an envelope,” Masanet said.

Masanet performed what he calls a “lifecycle assessment” number on this oversized package.

“If I get 1,000 packages a year, that’s still only 1% of the carbon footprint of typical American households,” he said.

However, industry experts claim that the production of cardboard boxes continues to increase steadily.

“On average, a corrugated box contains 49% recycled content, so when you recycle it, you give it back to our industry,” said Racheal Kenyan, vice president of the Fiber Box Association in Itasca, which is 95% from all over the United States. Expeditions.

But does the box have to be that big?

“Probably not,” she said. “I think there are probably a lot of good sizes that you will see over the next few years where people will be looking at their packaging to make sure it fits properly.”

Kenyon said most shippers, including Amazon, are looking for efficient-sized packaging. Amazon said it reduced waste in 2017 alone by avoiding 305 million shipping boxes and encouraged the use of 100% recyclable packaging.

According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the latest recycling rate for corrugated cardboard is 96.4%.

RELATED: What Can You Recycle In Chicago?

At a Grayslake Waste Management recycling center, they collect and sort mounds of cardboard and plastic packaging that were in boxes around the area.

“Because it will usually be bubble wrap or stretch wrap that really doesn’t belong in the recycling program,” said Tom Vujovic, regional recycling manager at the center.

The Plastics Industry Association has said that you can recycle much of the stuffing and padding by taking it to a local grocery store.

Despite all recycling efforts, China, the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials, has issued recent restrictions.

“China has limited the amount of cardboard it takes,” Vujovic said.

And it rejects crates of recyclable materials if they only contain 0.5% contaminants.

The Grayslake facility and the City of Chicago both claim that 75 to 80 percent of the recyclables that are collected are recycled.

You can read more about the I-Team and Sun Times joint investigation into your “cardboard footprint” in Tomorrow’s Newspaper and on the Chicago Sun-Times website.

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