Cardboard scarcer and more expensive due to corona
In several European regions, garbage collectors collect less paper due to the strict corona measures. This makes cardboard 15 percent more expensive. E-commerce packages, egg cartons and other cardboard products are becoming scarcer.
Anyone who wants to buy eggs in a Delhaize supermarket today has a high chance of finding them in a plastic packaging and not in the usual cardboard. The egg distributor temporarily opted for plastic because there is a shortage of cardboard.
It is no anecdote, because there is a lot going on in the cardboard sector. ‘Due to the corona virus, there is a shortage,’ says Pierre Macharis, the CEO of the Belgian paper and cardboard producer VPK. ‘In several European regions, paper is no longer collected at home due to the strict corona measures. This is the case in the United Kingdom, among others. Garbage collection is partly restricted and collectors give priority to residual waste. So there is less paper to recycle and to make cardboard. ‘
The e-commerce boom is leading to more demand for cardboard, while the supply is decreasing.
There is no collection problem in Belgium and the Netherlands. But the cardboard sector is a European business.
Corona is pushing up prices in yet another way. “The demand for cardboard has increased,” says Macharis. ‘People consume at home, which means that more packaging material is needed. The boom of e-commerce is also leading to a rising demand, while the supply is shrinking. ‘
A final explanation is exports to China. ‘The Chinese used to import European paper waste. In recent years, they no longer import pure waste, but paper waste that has been cooked in Europe and is sent to China as pulp. Even though the capacity of the European paper recycling plants is limited, ‘says Joachim Stöhr, Rajapack’s purchasing director. This company is the largest supplier of cardboard packaging material in Europe and has a branch in Tongeren.
Cardboard companies have to be creative to deliver to their customers. “Packing eggs in plastic is an option, or using paper and cardboard made from new fibers,” says Macharis. ‘But everyone does that and so new paper and cardboard are also becoming scarcer.’
Due to the scarcity, cardboard is currently 15 percent more expensive, say Macharis and Stöhr. The latter nuances that the comparison year 2020 was a year in which paper and cardboard became cheaper.
We receive cardboard with a delay and we also deliver our boxes later than expected.
It is striking that a number of companies that use a lot of cardboard and paper do not (yet) notice anything. The webshop Bol.com and the electrical chain MediaMarkt report that they are not yet experiencing any inconvenience. “Our products are still in their trusted packaging,” says Aurélie Gerth, Carrefour’s spokeswoman. ‘But we notice that there is scarcity and we keep an eye on the situation.’
Businesses should be aware that they are likely to be disrupted in the coming weeks. ‘We receive cardboard with a delay and we also deliver our boxes later than expected’, says Stöhr from Rajapack. ‘We can no longer offer all formats. But important: there is always an alternative available. ‘ This means that companies have to be content with boxes that are a bit larger or smaller than normal.
The nuisance will probably continue for some time, Macharis predicts. ‘I don’t expect much improvement in the coming weeks, but the situation will probably improve in the spring. If more people get a vaccine, the corona rules will become less strict and paper collection will resume. ‘
We will pass on the price increase to our customers.
He thinks the impact on VPK’s annual profit is small. ‘We will pass on the price increase to our customers. That will happen with some delay. ‘
A similar message can be heard from Rajapack. “Although we will not be able to recur everything,” says Stöhr.
Perhaps the last links of the chain will also pay for part of the costs. For example, it cannot be ruled out that you will have to pay a few cents more for a portion of eggs in carton.