3 Ways To Avoid The Cardboard Shortage

13 July 2021By ellie Reuseabox

3 Ways To Avoid The Cardboard Shortage

Updated: 16th November 2021

A global cardboard shortage means new cardboard boxes are getting more expensive and harder to source. According to an article by the BBC, businesses are being forced to compromise on their packaging just to get stock out the door. Ordering printed, bespoke boxes used to be simple. But extended delivery times and price increases have made the process a lot more complicated.

Fortunately there is a way you can avoid the cardboard shortage and get the cardboard boxes you need. Keep reading for our 3 top tips.

Cardboard shortage


What’s causing the cardboard shortage?

First, let’s examine some of the main reasons behind the corrugated cardboard shortage.


Increased Demand

Earlier this year, the Confederation of Paper Industries stated that demand for cardboard was 5 years ahead of where it was expected to be before the pandemic. As retailers closed their doors at the start of the pandemic, consumers switched to online shopping. Sending out individual parcels requires considerably more cardboard compared to shipping products in bulk to a retailer.  The increase in online shopping resulted in a huge increase in home deliveries, most of which needed to be delivered in cardboard boxes. Royal Mail reported delivering an extra 200 million parcels throughout 2020.

Cardboard Shortage


Reduced Recycling

A recent article by the BBC states “cardboard in people’s garages (is) causing the shortage”. According to DS Smith, the surge in home deliveries over lockdown has created a huge increase in the amount of cardboard ending up in people’s homes. This cardboard is not always making its way back into the recycling stream. In some cases, consumers may be ‘hoarding’ cardboard or putting it in their refuse bins. Cardboard must find its way back into the recycling stream so it can be recycled to help make new cardboard. There is also a problem with some waste collection services. DS Smith is working with local councils to try to improve cardboard collection rates.


Supply Chain Issues

Global supply chains are currently in crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic caused factories and offices around the world to close, which changed the way consumers spent money. In the UK, those that were working from home or on furlough, could no longer spend money on going out, so they switched to buying ipads, televisions, dishwashers or pelotons. This had a huge impact on supply chains.

The global economy depends on just-in-time supply chains. In theory, this is meant to improve efficiency. Raw materials and stock are delivered exactly when they’re needed, to cut down on wasted time, stock and space. But these supply chains are extremely vulnerable. Multiple delays such as warehouse closures, worker shortages and shipping delays can have a huge impact. In the UK there is a shortage of truck drivers and warehouse operatives which further exacerbates the problem.

supply chain crisis


Board Supply

The production of new cardboard is heavily reliant on the recycling of old boxes. A large percentage of cardboard recycling takes place in Europe. Border delays following Brexit and more recent transport delays have made it more difficult importing the materials needed to make cardboard boxes. According to Lets Recycle prices for used board needed in the recycling process have increased from £10 a tonne to £50-60 a tonne.

Lead times have risen dramatically from a few days to weeks or even months. Many businesses have been forced to compromise on their packaging, opting for plain brown boxes instead of their usual printed ones.

Cardboard Shortage Price Increases


So as a business that relies on cardboard to ship its products from A to B, what can you do to help mitigate these problems?


3 Ways to Avoid The Cardboard Shortage


1. Choose Surplus or Once Used Cardboard Boxes

The used cardboard box market has been largely unaffected by the shortages. This means you can order once used boxes on a regular basis without waiting for the boxes to be made. It is also much better for the environment to reuse rather than buy new, making your packaging more circular. Although used boxes cannot be printed or made to bespoke requirements, you can choose from a large range of standard sizes. You will undoubtedly save money as the cost of used boxes has been unaffected by the increase in board prices.

Used shipping cardboard boxes

2. Plan Ahead

Try to estimate the quantity of cardboard boxes you will need over the next 6-12 months. Work closely with your current supplier or manufacturer to ensure they can supply you. If possible order in advance to counteract any delays. You may also be able to negotiate on price if you order regularly. If your current supplier cannot meet your packaging requirements, consider supplementing your supply with a proportion of used boxes. This will act as a safety buffer, protecting your packaging supply chain from any potential delays.


3. Reuse Your Own Boxes

Possibly the most efficient and cost effective way of ensuring you have enough cardboard boxes is to reuse your own! Try to think creatively about how you can reuse your boxes. You may order raw materials or parts that arrive in cardboard boxes. These boxes could be reused as picking bins, recycling bins or even as packing boxes to send out to your customers.

You can even take this one step further and implement a Circular Reuse Model.

How Brands Are Tackling The Cardboard Shortage With Used Cardboard Boxes

Juratek – Manufacturer of Commercial Vehicle Components

Juratek is a company that specialises in the development of high quality commercial vehicle components. Once manufactured, components are packed in once used pallet boxes and shipped out to customers. Juratek have been packing in used boxes for a number of years as a low cost, sustainable packaging solution. They have seen added benefits during the last 18 months.


Photo Credit: Juratek


How The Shortages Have Affected Juratek

We asked Michael Daniels, Warehouse Manager at Juratek, how the cardboard shortage had affected the business.

“…the cardboard shortage has put great strain across most businesses this year as well as pretty much all other raw materials, plastic, metal ore etc. Although we haven’t suffered in terms of supply we have incurred the increase in costs. Delivery times have increased, where an average manufactured order would take in the region of 3 to 4 weeks to process and deliver you would at the worst of times be looking at 6 to 7 weeks.”

How Juratek Avoided Disruption Caused By The Cardboard Shortage

By continuing to pack in used pallet boxes during the pandemic, Juratek were able to avoid the price increases and extended lead times that have affected newly manufactured boxes and other raw materials.

“…Where Reuseabox have really helped us is the availability and competitive costs. They are always accommodating where they can be in helping with any situation we as a company find ourselves in, and, with great communication between myself and their sales team has made my life that little bit easier.

Overall with the world turned upside down and gone slightly mad, Reuseabox have been one of the very few constants and I have much thanks for that.”

Benefits of Reusing Cardboard


Over the last 18 months we’ve helped hundreds of businesses like Juratek who have struggled to source packaging from their usual supplier.

Learn more about sustainable businesses who are choosing to Reuse Cardboard Boxes and beat the shortages.



The cardboard shortage is a complex problem caused by multiple issues. Increased demand coupled with a supply chain crisis means the cardboard shortage is likely to continue well into 2022. Prices and lead times are also set to increase which is likely to be a real headache for companies who like to order their boxes on a just-in-time basis.

The solution is to choose to reuse. Reusing cardboard boxes will enable you to beat the shortages and avoid the price increases. It’s also the easiest way to get packaging that’s better for the planet. Reuse your own boxes or go to a Used Cardboard Box Supplier.


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