Given the growth in ecommerce, it should be obvious that there is tremendous demand for carboard packaging. However, as yet another Amazon box landed on my doorstep, I realized that I had never thought about the impact of ecommerce on the size, scope and growth of the corrugated box market. (Duh!) While information is a little hard to come by, here are a few statistics. Approximately 80% of all products sold spend time in a cardboard box at some point in their life cycle. Roughly 80 billion boxes are used in the U.S. every year and Amazon alone is estimated to ship 7.7 billion although it does not disclose its actual usage. Worldwide, factories produced 400 million metric tons of paper and cardboard products in 2020 and that figure is expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2032.
Cardboard is manufactured primarily from loblolly pine trees in the Southeastern U.S. although there is also a burgeoning industry in South America that is focused on meeting the incredible demand from China. The largest manufacturers in the U.S. are International Paper, Georgia Pacific, WestRock, and Packaging Corporation of America. Interestingly, while only 5% of plastic waste is recycled in the U.S., roughly 95% of cardboard is reused!
I have written about the impact of technology on a variety of industries so I was not surprised to discover that Amazon has developed an algorithm to determine the optimum box size for each item that it sells. This minimizes the amount of air that is shipped, a source of considerable waste for global shippers. There is no limit to human ingenuity!