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Brits will squeeze nearly one billion boxes from online shopping into their homes this Christmas

DS Smith estimates that as seasonal shoppers continue to turn to the internet for their gifts(1), consumers will have more packaging in their homes than they can recycle.

The data showed that last Christmas, Brits who shopped online bought an average of 20 gifts. With the shift to online shopping showing no sign of abating, that leaves UK homes dealing with an extra 954 million cardboard boxes this Christmas.

Presenting a challenge

And that presents a real recycling challenge. With declining packaging recycling rates, a whopping 248 million boxes or 124,0002 tonnes, the equivalent of almost 670,854 adult reindeers, risk being stored in people’s homes, landfilled, or incinerated. Conversely if we could recycle all those extra boxes, they could be worth over £12 million to local authorities.

As more consumers do their Christmas shopping online, we’re expecting Brits to have even more cardboard than usual in the lead up to Christmas

Rogier Gerritsen
Head of Recycling at DS Smith

“With research we did earlier in the year showing that nearly half of Brits (47%) were saying that their recycling facilities needed to be bigger, the situation over Christmas is only going to get worse. This means that consumers risk being overwhelmed with packaging and having too much to recycle, leading them to put their boxes in the wrong bin or store them in garages as their recycling bins fill up too fast.

“We know this situation is not restricted to the festive period, but it does emphasise the need to urgently look at how we can improve recycling infrastructures and increase our recycling rates. Consumers can help by flat packing their boxes to get more into their recycling bins, as well as taking boxes they can’t fit into their own recycling bins to local recycling centres.”

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Investment is needed

Based on trends identified in DS Smith’s Tipping Point Report, the UK is set to meet the 65% municipal recycling rate for 2035 over decade too late. To help get recycling rates back on track, investment is needed to create a consistent approach to recycling across the UK with paper and cardboard collected separately from other recyclables.

Rogier Gerritsen added, “Brands and labelling bodies have a big part to play in tackling the UK’s recycling challenge too. It’s incredibly important that consumers are given the information they need to recycle properly, and our research shows that many people are confused about what can and can’t be recycled. 

“If we are going to ensure future Christmases are green, then the whole sector needs to collaborate to make sure that households have clarity about what goes in recycling bins.”  

Unless specified consumer data from OnePoll research of 2,000 UK adults.
Conducted between 3rd and 5th November 2020
Source 1
Source 2