Overview of COVID-19 packaging boxes and the pulp and paper industry
The future of packaging has never appeared so multifaceted, because environmentally conscious consumers continue to inspire creative changes in the traditional industry of packaging. But before we consider what will happen in the future, we should first admit that the new crown epidemic has already produced tremendous changes and lasting effects on our industry.
Multiple global lockdowns have forced changes in consumer behavior and shopping habits, resulting in a 46% increase in e-commerce. The boom in online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more packaging deliveries than ever before, all of which urgently need to keep up with market demand. As the packaging is hurriedly thrown from the warehouse to the truck, and then to the door, its strength is more concerned than ever. Because the demand for cartons is constantly growing, and can safely store your goods under any delivery conditions.
But the COVID-19 is not the only catalyst. With the decline of the physical retail industry, e-commerce has exploded, and with it, consumers have more awareness of the volume of packaging delivery. Therefore, sustainability and the use of more recycled materials have become equally important. Most cartons today are made of approximately 50% recycled corrugated material, and every ton of corrugated material reused can help prevent up to 17 trees from being felled.
The disadvantage of recycled fiber is that it will become shorter after repeated use, which may continuously weaken the characteristics of recycled fiber. Usually, after 5-7 cycles, the fiber can no longer be used. From a practical point of view, this means that the structural integrity of recycled corrugated boxes depends on the quality of the raw materials. There are many ways to overcome this problem, but in the end there is a balance between intensity and sustainability, not to mention cost. This is a difficult problem to deal with.
Since the strength can only be measured after the paper is made, the opportunity for process optimization to achieve the correct ratio of raw materials, virgin materials, and recycled materials to meet specifications is limited. Therefore, it is not surprising that the demand for the virtual intensity measurement released by ABB last year has surged. It creates an online calculation that enables paper and packaging manufacturers to better manage strength characteristics within their target limits, thereby producing more paper that meets specifications at a lower cost, while also reducing the use of raw materials. ABB has also expanded the use of online fiber measurement to better optimize fiber combination.
What other factors are driving this change?
The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to have a long-term impact on the future of e-commerce and packaging. According to McKinsey & Company, global demand for packaging is growing, and sales in 2021 will exceed the $1 trillion mark.
In the past 18 months, we have seen the demand for corrugated boxes surge with each blockade, which has brought light to the paper packaging industry, which is worth 350 billion U.S. dollars at the core of the e-commerce economy. According to data from consulting firm Smithers, the amount of cardboard used to deliver goods from retailers to households has surged by nearly 40% last year, and by the end of 2020, Fischer International confirmed that the consumption of cardboard paper in the United States has reached 40 years. At the highest level, driven by the growth of corrugated packaging, the operating capacity of the paper industry has grown at a rate not seen in more than 10 years.
Sustainability is one of the biggest contributors to positive changes in our industry, as we have seen a clear shift in packaging to use fewer materials and more natural packaging. The company now has the responsibility and vested interests to serve the needs of emerging consumers interested in a green future. The exceptionally high level of e-commerce, coupled with the desire of the younger generation to support companies that conform to their beliefs, has caused people to reassess the waste problem and gradually move away from retailers with excessive or unsustainable packaging.
The evolution of packaging will also be driven to a large extent by demographic changes and consumer trends, such as the increase in urbanization rates and related phenomena, namely the takeaway culture and the demand for convenience.