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  • Britain’s box backlog: More than 135m cardboard boxes stowed in homes as almost half of Brits admit to hoarding them

Britain’s box backlog: More than 135m cardboard boxes stowed in homes

New data shows that 44% of Brits admit to hoarding cardboard boxes – with a massive 135m believed to be sitting in our sheds, garages, and wardrobes.

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

Since Covid-19, there’s been a major shift in consumer shopping habits, with people accumulating more boxes as a result. It means that materials are at best getting delayed in reaching recyclers, and at worse not getting to them at all.

Rogier Gerritsen
Head of Recycling at DS Smith

At DS Smith, we rely on a circular business and have a unique 14-day box to box model, meaning we take the boxes we make, then collect, recycle and convert them into new boxes all within 14 days. As well as being Europe’s largest cardboard and paper recycler, we’re committed to leading the transition to the circular economy. We globally manufacture billions of boxes from recycled fibre every year and find solutions for customers that replace problem plastics, and remove carbon from supply chains.

Further data shows that one in five Brits (20%) are holding on to between 5 and 10 boxes, with 10% hoarding 10 to 19, and 4% with 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 (34%), a wardrobe or cupboard (30%), or in the shed (23%). 

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 (24%) use them for storage, and the same amount (24%) 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 around one in ten (9%) confessing they don’t know how to recycle them, and the same number (9%) 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.

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Rogier, Head of Recycling, said ''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 1. 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.''

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.

Simon Weston
Director of Raw Materials at the Confederation of Paper Industries