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E-commerce putting strain on recycling

Due to a rise in online shopping, the UK is in jeopardy of missing its 2035 recycling target.

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A rise in e-commerce has resulted in a significant increase in packaging

Tipping Point, a report by packaging firm DS Smith, says that significant trends such as online shopping could impact the UK’s ability to make progress on recycling rates.

According to Tipping Point, the UK is the third largest B2C market in the world, with 18% of all retail sales in the UK now made online. As a result, a staggering 1.9bn parcels are now delivered directly to homes.

Based on data from CPI and Euromonitor, DS Smith estimates that between 2017 and 2022 e-commerce packaging will have grown “three-fold” in comparison to traditional packaging.

The report outlines the need to consider the changing consumer purchasing behaviour that is resulting in billions of packages arriving at households.

Jochen Behr, head of recycling at DS Smith says: “We see a system that doesn’t consider the volume of today’s recycling, infrastructure which could be close to breakdown and a number of local authorities looking to adopt the cheapest waste treatment rather than improving the quality of collected dry recyclables.

It creates a compelling case for joined-up, systemic change on how the UK deals with waste and recyclables

“It creates a compelling case for joined-up, systemic change on how the UK deals with waste and recyclables.”

Whilst it is clear that an effort needs to be made to keep up with the increase in packaging generated through e-commerce, research by DS Smith found that only 18% of adults surveyed say they are well informed about what they can recycle, and eight in ten consumers were not aware how recycling makes a difference.

There was also an air of scepticism from those surveyed as to what actually happens to recycling once it has been collected.

41% think that less than 25% of waste is recycled, and more than a third surveyed say they fear that materials they recycle goes to landfill or incineration sites.

In terms of the amount of packaging used for online sales, one key issue that has been identified is the existence of excess packaging and disproportionate ‘empty space.’

Despite fears that the UK will miss its recycling target in 2035, based on customer data generated by DS Smith, the firm has calculated that this ‘empty space’ will reduce significantly from up to 50% to 21% in 2035.

If you have any news, please email carys@linkpublishing.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter.

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