A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

In the latter part of last week’s column, we started covering an article in a recent Resource Recycling eNewsletter about changes being made/required in the recycling of cardboard (old corrugated containers or OCC). Today we will continue to extract some of the information from the article which we feel could affect many who recycle it.

As a spokesperson for the industry said concerning OCC, “There is a shift taking place and it’s more from the consumers.” He added, “It’s a question of where is that material going to end up and is it going to be as easy for us to capture?”

The article went on to explain that although many smaller businesses are having a tough time, thus requiring fewer boxes of incoming material “… the demand for fiber and manufactured corrugate is actually on the rise.” This is partly because of the increase in the convenience of online shopping.

This was proven by a 2017 survey showing “… 79 percent of Americans have made purchases online – compared with 22 percent in 2000.” The survey also found online purchases were made once per week by 15 percent of adult shoppers. And 28 percent make multiple monthly online purchases.

Even in stores we might consider to be ‘hands-on’ type buying, more shoppers are using their ionline service. For example, in Walmart’s first-quarter earnings release for the 2018 fiscal year, they noted an ecommerce sales boost of 63 percent.

More evidence of this can be seen the in the U.S. Postal Service. Since 2009, it has seen delivery growth of packages rise 65 percent. By 2019, UPS believes “… more shipments will be delivered to homes than to businesses.”

All this requires more cardboard boxes (you don’t use a plastic, paper, cloth bag to take the items home as in ‘hands-on’ shopping). Another study on the increased demand for cardboard boxes shows it could be a $41.2 billion industry by 2020.

However, having more OCC to recycling isn’t necessarily a good thing for the recycling industry. There is a down side too.

As the article explained, “More OCC is showing up in the residential stream as e-commerce continues to grow. But contamination issues and space constraints in curbside receptacles serve as major recovery hindrances.”

Another problem is the items shipped in boxes are subject to more damage than those you pick up and take home by yourself. It has been found “… replacing a damaged product can cost an e-commerce vendor up to 17 times more than the original cost of shipping – and damage to delivered goods and products is estimated to cost U.S. companies $6 billion per year.”

Thus, to help reduce some of the possible damage, some companies are using a double box or a box within a box. As one might expect, “These packaging and shipping trends of course have direct effects on the fiber recovery market.”

Enough for today. Although we dislike having to ask you to stick with us till next week for more on this subject, we will do so in hopes it is interesting to you and will help you in your efforts to recycle OCC.

Till next week, do have a great one...

-- Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu.

San Marcos Daily Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666