A solution to the small-item-in-a-big-box problem

Newer technology eases the demand for boxes

Photo of shipping envelopes being processed for delivery

It’s a familiar phenomenon for anyone who regularly shops online: A single tube of toothpaste arrives on the doorstep with lightning speed, but it’s in a box that easily could have housed an entire medicine cabinet’s worth of toiletries. This is partly a reflection of how retailers have optimized e-commerce for convenience, making the click of a button a viable alternative to a quick trip to the corner store. Some give consumers the option to consolidate larger orders into fewer boxes, but that typically comes at the expense of speed. The pandemic exacerbated the small-item-in-a-big box problem. As consumers shifted a greater proportion of their spending online, supply chains that were geared toward more pallet-sized packaging struggled to adjust. This created a shortage of smaller cardboard boxes heading into the holiday season last year, according to executives from Veritiv Corp., a provider of packaging and logistics services with more than $6 billion of revenue. E-commerce companies relied more on plastic mailers (which are also easier to cram into delivery trucks), but those have the downside of being more difficult to recycle. You have to take them to a participating facility and rip off the shipping label — a task which is easier said than done.

Read this article featured on Bloomberg.