The Truth About Cardboard in E-Commerce

October 02, 2019


There’s no denying that e-commerce uses a lot of cardboard. In fact, online shopping used 1.3 million tons of cardboard in North America in 2018! That number might make waste-conscious consumers wary, but we’re here to lay down the truth about one of the most sustainable packaging materials out there.


If you flip over a box, you’ll probably see that it’s made from 100% recycled cardboard. That’s the case for the majority of cardboard packaging in the U.S., thanks to eco-conscious recyclers. 

Not even counting consumers, 80% of all retailers and grocery stores recycle their leftover cardboard. That’s a whopping amount of recycled material which goes right back into new packaging. That recycled cardboard can become a new box in as little as two weeks!


The process for making new cardboard is just as eco-friendly. Trees are cut down to make timber, and they leave behind wood chips. Those wood chips get broken down to make wood pulp, which becomes paper for packaging.

All this action starts at an ethically managed tree farm — and they’re sustainable in a major way. These farms help reforestation efforts, prevent erosion and help water retention in the ecosystems where they operate. To get virgin pulp for packaging, farmers only harvest a single section of the forest each year. That forest is replanted and grows back in its entirety.

Cardboard’s family tree

That’s not to say these trees only help the areas where they’re planted. They have a global effect on our planet’s environment at large. Environmental scientists say that growing trees could cut the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 25%, and tree farms are a big contributor to that mission. Great for packaging, great for reducing our carbon footprint!


We all remember the Wild West days of e-commerce. You’d order a pack of batteries and it would show up in a box big enough to hold a refrigerator. Thankfully, those days are long gone.

When consumers speak out against wasteful packaging, the industry listens. Brands like Tide have started investing in shipping-safe packaging to produce less cardboard waste. Slap a shipping label on that puppy and it’s good to ship — no outer box needed.


Photo courtesy of Procter & Gamble

At Ernest we’ve been leading packaging trends for over 70 years. We’ve seen cardboard adapt, getting stronger and lighter while using fewer materials. We’ve seen it get recycled more and get sourced more responsibly. It’s one of the most resilient packaging materials out there, and we’re proud to work toward a brighter, corrugated future.

If you’re looking for ways to rethink your use of cardboard, give the pros a call. After all, who else could have made a masterful cardboard wakesurf??