Amazon has been making a mint during the pandemic. That business has resulted in multi-billion dollar pay days for the company’s soon-to-be former CEO, and millions of the company’s iconic cardboard boxes being left on doorsteps, and in lobbies and mailboxes every day. And when those piles of boxes climb higher, the cost they carry continues to climb, too.
That’s according to a new Bloomberg report detailing how the price of old corrugated cardboard—OCC in recycling industry lingo for the salvageable material that can be pulled from one of these Amazon boxes—has doubled over the past year. And that number doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon: Another recent report from the industry trade publication Resource Recycling found that the national average price for OCC has scooted up to about $75 dollars per ton as of last month. For reference, that price was closer to $25 dollars per ton at this time last year.
Understanding this massive spike means understanding some basic tenets of economics: When the demand for, say, cardboard boxes spikes as rapidly as it did during the start of the covid-19 pandemic, it puts pressure on packaging manufacturers to put out more product, and fast. The thing is, that surge in demand wasn’t met with a similar surge in supply. Resource Recycling reported last year that during the initial height of the pandemic in the U.S.—around late March through April—recovered paper collection plummeted between 30% and 50%.
In other words, the production end of this supply chain now needed to do way more with way less recycled cardboard, leading to a price hike that will continue to skyrocket until recovery and recycle rates catch up with this newfound demand.
Or take your claim to FairShake, the consumer advocacy service.