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Recycled Paper Materials are Changing Based on Consumer Habits

Posted on: August 26th, 2020

Recycled Paper Materials Changing Based on Consumer Habits

In a recent blog post entitled, Packaging Waste Increases as Online Shopping Hits Unprecedented Growth, we discussed how an increase in online shopping is dramatically increasing packaging waste. We’re now learning how Covid19 is changing the generation and demand of the recycled paper industry.

According to an article on ResourceRecycling.com, recycled paper mills such as WestRock, with locations around the world, are seeing “significant change” in recycled paper behaviors. At-home packaging is now generating the bulk of paper materials, which is undoubtedly supported by Adobe Analytics report that U.S. online sales for June 2020 totaled $73.2 billion (up 76% when compared to June 2019, which rang in at $41.5 billion).

The challenge? At-home recycled paper typically includes more contaminants, as many municipalities often group tin, glass and paper recycling all in one bin for collection. That translates to less raw materials which can easily and economically be repurposed into new paper materials.

Additionally, the majority of OCC (old corrugated cardboard) being collected are small cardboard boxes commonly used with online retailers to save on packaging costs.

Linda Leone of WestRock said, “It was just a matter of really being able to keep up with that grade mix: So maybe we lost retail, but we gained grocery. The dynamics of what was being produced and what was available to the market, we were able to shift that with our relationships and [we were] able to move stuff around from mill to mill, to get those right feed recipe mixes for what we were seeing.”

Leone and many others strongly believe that this shift in recycled paper materials will not go away once the pandemic quiets down and society returns to normal.

Remote working will become a common reality, more documents will be handled electronically reducing overall paper waste and e-commerce shopping for everything from groceries to garden supplies will be a long-lasting reality.

The recycled paper industry must then prepare itself for the behavioral changes post-pandemic consumers will adopt as they will directly influence the raw materials paper mills will have available.

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