ISRI2019: E-commerce impact on recovered fiber market

ISRI2019: E-commerce impact on recovered fiber market

Fibre Box Association reported that recovery rates of boxes from the residential sector is only at about 30 to 35 percent.

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April 17, 2019

With the growth of e-commerce, speakers at Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ (ISRI) 2019 Convention & Exposition took time to look at how it’s impacted residential recycling. The convention took place April 8-11 in Los Angeles.

“A lot has happened with e-commerce. It’s changing the world,” said Dennis Colley, president of Itasca, Illinois-based Fibre Box Association, in the convention's "Spotlight on Paper: The Impact of E-commerce on Residential Recycling Programs" session.

Colley reported that the number of boxes being made is growing as a result of e-commerce. Before the boom of e-commerce, he said the majority of boxes came from commercial storefronts and those had a very high recovery rate of about 95 percent. Yet with e-commerce, more boxes are going to homes and multifamily properties. Colley said the recovery rate of boxes from the residential sector is probably only 30 to 35 percent. 

According to a survey completed by the Fibre Box Association on why residential property owners are less likely to recycle their boxes, about 42 percent of respondents said they wanted more frequent recycling pick-ups; 39 percent of respondents who were in multifamily homes reported they needed more information on how to recycle; and 36 percent of respondents said they needed larger carts.

“It’s not about the access to curbside, but it’s about the ease of access,” Colley said. 

To improve recovery rates of old corrugated containers (OCC), Colley noted that it’s important for the industry to ensure it keeps the 95 percent recovery rate that exists for retail OCC bales, as those are cleaner and easier to disassemble boxes. On the residential side, he said the industry has to take time to listen to their questions and provide them with information on how to recycle properly. Additionally, haulers also need to consider making some changes to improve recovery rates of OCC, such as providing larger collection carts, increasing the frequency of pick-ups and helping with public education.

He added that the messaging to all parties needs to be simple. “It can’t be complicated. We’re asking people to make a quick decision, and most won’t read complex, lengthy infographics. Don’t be too technical.” 

Recycling Today looked more into the issue of e-commerce’s impact on the recycling industry in its April edition. Click here to read “Thinking about the box” by Susan Cornish of Atlanta-based Moore & Associates