Over the last 20 years, e-commerce has evolved from a novelty into a $300 billion business category that includes diapers, cars and every product in between. Each of these products—many of which can now be purchased with a tap of a plastic button or by talking into a countertop device—arrives in packaging, and as online shoppers buy ever more trivial items with ever greater frequency, the mounds of cardboard boxes they amass have raised questions about the impact of e-commerce on the environment.
Despite all this, the amount of cardboard shipped by U.S. companies has actually decreased slightly since 1995, according to the Fibre Box Association, which has member businesses that account for 95 percent of industrial shipments of cardboard made from new and recycled materials in the U.S. (Imported cardboard only accounts for about 3 percent of cardboard boxes and containers purchased in the U.S.)
So how can the amount of cardboard in the United States have remained constant while e-commerce grew by $300 billion? One reason is manufacturers across industries—not only e-commerce—have been improving their packaging to reduce the cost of shipping products.
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