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Retailer Cardboard Tax: What Does It Mean For The Packaging Industry?

11 January 2024 by
Hannah Smith
Retailers could be set to pay the government new e-tailer cardboard tax when using large amounts of cardboard, in addition to the existing resources and waste strategy already in place. But what does this really mean?

E-tailer Definition and Meaning

For those of you who aren’t aware, e-tailers are online retailers selling goods through electronic means via the internet, making Quickbox an e-tailer. If you are new to Quickbox, our vision is ‘delivering packaging presentation’. With our business being based on fulfilling your packaging needs, any changes to the packaging laws affect us. We regularly keep an eye on our industry and policies to ensure that we are ahead of the game, not only in what we do but in industry know-how.

Society has rapidly changed its attitude towards waste in the last few years and to mirror this change, the government are toying with the idea of introducing ‘e-tailer cardboard tax’. But before we get into ‘cardboard tax’, what is in place at the moment?

Packaging Recycling Obligation

Retailer and eCommerce businesses currently contribute towards the collection and recycling of the cardboard waste that they produce, influenced by the Packaging Recycling Obligation system. This involves us as retailers registering and meeting our waste packaging recycling and recovery responsibilities. It is vital that we follow this system when producing, using or selling packaged goods, of which Quickbox falls into the category of. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that we:

– Reduce the amount of packaging used initially – For this, we provide you with a custom box calculator to ensure that your box fits your goods perfectly, reducing the amount of cardboard used in the first place.
– Reduce the amount of packaging waste that ends up in a landfill – Recently committing to “zero to landfill” means that we are consciously eliminating our impact on landfill by eliminating it altogether.
– Increase the amount of packaging waste that is recycled and recovered – We take our sustainability very seriously, find out how today.

As well as the responsibilities outlined above, the government also expects every year an obligated packaging producer to:
• Register as a packaging producer by 7 April
• Meet their recovery and recycling obligation
• Obtain evidence of compliance
• Submit a certificate of compliance (CoC) by 31 January the following year

We are proud to say that not only do we meet the minimum requirements here at Quickbox, we also go the extra mile (alike our packages) to ensure that we are being kind to the environment. Murray, The Solutions Guy here at Quickbox recently expressed; “We have committed as a company to be “Zero to Landfill” from October 2018. Also, half of our fleet is low emissions and a third is fully electric. We DO sustainable.”

Despite companies like ourselves taking our responsibility of the environment seriously and following the rules and legalities that already exist, Lee Marshall, of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee, believes that businesses still have a long way to go, expressing; “Years of austerity mean council budgets have been heavily squeezed, so it’s time for the UK to reform packing regulations so that producers pass funding through to local authorities to support and expand recycling collections.”

Amazon Cardboard

Despite e-tailers already paying towards collection and recycling, councils still spend tens of millions annually towards collection and recycling of cardboard. It is this very fact that has triggered discussion for e-tailer cardboard tax, which was initiated by Amazons huge costs that are associated when dealing with its packaging.

Amazon has recently been under scrutiny for their over-sized packaging with consumer group Which? highlighting the large amount of wastage when transporting goods. A prime example being of a printer ink cartridge arriving in a box 11 times its size. Surprising in an age where waste and packaging are major buzzwords.

Amazon appears to understand the consequences of their vast packaging, following scrutiny and expressed “We have introduced a number of sustainable packaging initiatives, like Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging, which promotes easy-to-open, 100 per cent recyclable packaging and lets us ship products in their own packages without additional boxes.” As well as introducing recyclable packaging, Amazon has also expressed that they consistently work towards waste reduction; ‘Over the past 10 years, we have eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials, avoiding the use of 500 million shipping boxes.’

Labour MP Mary Creagh, chairman of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, said: “Online retailers should pay to recycle their packaging, but the UK’s recycling system lets them off the hook, leaving cash-strapped councils and taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Cardboard Tax: What It Is and Why?

Now although we have an idea that there will be a new tax introduced, we are not yet sure what levies will be charged until the policy is published. Following this “threat”, one suggestion for Amazon included Amazon’s couriers collecting the boxes whilst making their rounds.

Phillip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer has considered the introduction of an e-tailer cardboard tax in order to create a fair environment for high street retailers, compared to online businesses. In a recent interview with Sky News, the Chancellor expressed the need to ensure that “the high street remains resilient” and that “taxation is fair between businesses doing business the traditional way and those doing business online.”

With this being said, Phillip also expressed a need to re-evaluate and negotiate International tax treaties with the majority of the online businesses being international companies.

The Environmental Minister has been hesitant to voice the levies that would be put in place. Aside from Amazon’s couriers potentially collecting the boxes whilst they do their rounds posing as one idea, another idea includes calculating the level of tax to be incurred based on the value generated. 

We Take CSR Seriously…Do You?

Here at Quickbox, we take our Corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability and packaging very seriously. To reduce wastage, we understand that one size doesn’t fit all, which is why we have a custom box calculator. This custom box calculator means that we can produce packaging perfectly sized for your goods with minimum waste.

A key value of ours is corporate responsibility. “Implementing Social Responsibility is the essence of sustainability. (We will create and grow while ensuring that no-one and nothing suffers as a result)”. We have believed and implemented this from the very beginning and will continue throughout our business journey.

As of now, there is no definitive answer in terms of what levies will be applied for online retailers. One thing that we do know for sure is that despite any policies that are implemented in the near and distant future, we will always remain environmentally responsible and constantly seek to go the extra mile in everything that we do, including following legalities and policies.

Perhaps you are looking to work with a company that takes the environment and policies very seriously, or are interested in finding out more about how we constantly seek to look after the environment. Or maybe you just want to buy packaging knowing that it has a limited impact on the environment.

If this is the case, why not speak to one of our friendly team members today or try out our custom box calculator to see what changes you can make to reducing your ‘cardboard footprint’ today.

Hannah Smith 11 January 2024

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