A lot has changed since I last sat down to share my thoughts for 2020. This time last year, the potential for a presidential impeachment, an unpredictable election, and perhaps an economic slowdown loomed large. But no one knew we would spend the year fighting a global pandemic.
Back then, I ended my perspective with the idea that 2020 would be a year of extraordinary opportunity for the corrugated industry. I was not wrong.
In the early days of the pandemic, we watched as the supply chain flexed and contracted amidst pantry-stocking and toilet paper hoarding. As an industry, we knew disruption in the availability of goods would cause significant hardships to consumers across the country and we worked hard to ensure our facilities and our workers were deemed essential and able to provide steady and stable supplies.
The pandemic put the supply chain in the spotlight and corrugated packaging fulfilled its role as the backbone of that system. From point A to point B, corrugated boxes protect and cushion products as a vital link in the flow of goods to market.
The ability of a box to withstand the rigors of transport through an increasingly complex supply chain is crucial for protecting the product inside and supporting the brand behind it. Packages must arrive in pristine condition and graphics on the box need to provide a mobile billboard for the brand. In addition, it is more important than ever for consumers to understand corrugated packaging’s environmental progress and the importance of why and how to recycle the box after use.
In March, corrugated box shipments grew by 9 percent above March 2019 shipments, boosted by both an additional shipping day and overstocking of household paper products, cleaning supplies and food. Shipments grew again year-over-year in June, July, and September. With October shipments hitting record highs and putting the industry up 2.4 percent through ten months of the year, the numbers show there is nothing more tried and truer to distribution and deliveries than corrugated packaging.
So, it has been an extraordinary year for our industry and our products. In many ways, consumers, retailers, environmental groups, and others view boxes in a whole new light reflecting on corrugated’s core attributes – essential, sustainable, economical, renewable and recycled – but those foundations are just the beginning. Boxes can be custom designed to reliably ship just about anything and they humbly do it with rarely noticed engineering wonder.
And now, it’s official and agreed on – pizza boxes can be recycled. While the tradition of pizza night in American households provided a whole new level of comfort during pandemic restrictions, our industry moved forward with research that corrects a common misconception: the belief that cheese and grease stuck to the boxes would negatively impact recyclability. The industry agreement cleared the way for positive action to increase recovery of old corrugated containers (OCC) in recycling programs adding to an already successful recovery story.
Simply put, boxes are a marvel that deserve center stage in our global quest to seek what happens after the pandemic.
What hasn’t changed from my 2020 outlook, is Fibre Box Association’s focused commitment to telling the story of corrugated boxes. We believe in sharing our progress with box users and consumers. We believe they should feel good about choosing, receiving, using and recycling corrugated packaging. We believe in the resiliency of the people in our industry and we know they will continue to propel the corrugated industry forward.
In 2021, boxes will carry vaccines to the world. They will also continue to deliver everyday essentials, pharmaceuticals, kids’ toys, electronics and everything in between. They will facilitate accelerated e-commerce shopping. Boxes will bring it all to our doorstep or ship it anywhere else in the world.
Boxes. The most extraordinary ordinary thing in the world.