Published 6th of January 2022

A nationwide cardboard shortage has been impacting the UK since late 2020. A number of factors have combined to bring this about, from the global pandemic to a decline in recycling rates. As many businesses across the country will know, cardboard prices have since risen as demand continues to exceed supply.

Heading into 2022, many had hoped that the situation would start to improve and cardboard prices would fall. It’s clear, however, that the cardboard shortage is still escalating, pushed along by the whirlwind of online shopping that comes with the Christmas period.

You may be wondering how or even if you can help, especially if your business has been impacted by the rising cardboard prices. Here, we explore exactly why there is a cardboard shortage in the UK and what easy steps you can take to help.

Why is there a cardboard shortage in the UK?

Along with the rest of the world, the UK was heavily impacted by the pandemic in 2020. As lockdowns forced people indoors and away from workplaces, physical shops and hospitality venues, ecommerce unsurprisingly boomed.

In fact, 75% of people said they were shopping more online since the pandemic started, with Royal Mail reporting an additional 200 million parcels sent in 2020. According to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, the UK shipped around 74 parcels per person in 2020, a 33% increase on pre-pandemic 2019.

This change in shopping habits seen in 2020 continued into 2021 and is set to follow in 2022, but why does this affect cardboard supply?

Eco-conscious consumers

When it comes to packaging, consumers have become increasingly eco-conscious, putting the pressure on businesses (both small and large) to deliver goods in sustainable packaging.

Typically, the most cost-effective and sustainable packaging material is cardboard: it’s 100% recyclable and over 80% of cardboard used in the UK is usually recycled by businesses and individuals. That’s the most successful recycling of any other material we use.

Therefore, more businesses have started to use cardboard to send their products - which is great! However, when paired with the ecommerce boom due to the pandemic, this has caused a much higher demand for cardboard which suppliers haven’t been able to keep up with.

Less cardboard is being recycled due to pandemic

A major reason why supply cannot keep up with demand lies in the production of cardboard. Around 85% of the raw material used to produce cardboard packaging is taken from recycled fibres, however sourcing these fibres has become a challenge.

The pandemic has meant individuals and businesses have been less likely to get out and recycle fibres, paper and boxes: DEFRA reported a 1.7 percentage point reduction in England’s recycling rate as a result of the pandemic, staff and HGV driver shortages.

The reduction in recycling and the lack of staff and HGV drivers has resulted in a nationwide cardboard shortage. Unfortunately, this has forced some businesses to switch to plastic packaging, hoping to return to cardboard once production and cost has returned to normal.

How can your business help the cardboard box shortage?

While there are many different factors at work, businesses have their part to play in helping to improve the cardboard shortage situation. To help increase the availability of fibres suitable for cardboard production, businesses need to stay on top of their recycling, even during any possible future restrictions due to the pandemic.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to maintain recycling standards without putting staff at risk or requiring them to complete unnecessary journeys - which is where Shredall comes in.

Easily recycle your cardboard and paper

Shredall SDS Group provides cardboard recycling and paper recycling for businesses and individuals, including collection from your office or site. Wheelie bins, consoles or RORO skips can be provided, offering both one-off or regular collection services tailored to the amount of waste you need recycling.


We’ll make sure all material gets safely baled and recycled at a UK mill, issuing you with a waste transfer note to confirm the process has been completed.

While it may seem small, the more businesses that keep up with their recycling, the quicker the UK will be out of the cardboard shortage - and the quicker cardboard prices will fall! Get in touch to chat about our services or call us on 0115 896 0860 today.

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