The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted e-commerce and online shopping to a great extent—a trend that will most likely continue in the future. This has led to a significant increase in the amount of carboard boxes that rest in the hands of consumers making them more responsible for circularity of cardboard materials by properly disposing shipment boxes.

Cardboard and paper wastes are among those materials that are routinely collected and recycled across the world: as of 2019, 86% and 66% in the European Union and USA, respectively. With these numbers, cardboard has the best recycling record of any packaging material. It is estimated that every ton of recycled cardboard saves 7 cubic meters of landfill space. The recycling of cardboard also offers energy saving given that the process only uses around 75 percent of the energy needed to make new cardboard.

Being made of wood feedstock, cardboards are composed of 40–80% cellulose, 5–15% hemicellulose, and minor traces of lignin. While paper and cardboard can be recycled multiple times (2.4 times in average), individual fibers become shortened during each recycling process and therefore loses their efficacy for production of a recycled paper or cardboard. These short fibers along with other contaminations like inks are removed as a sludge, which are commonly disposed into landfills. Several options have been suggested to valorize this sludge, including its use as an ingredient in building materials, feedstock for nanocellulose and lactic acid, or for biogas production. However, none of these added-value solutions have been adopted at scale.

The increase in the use of cardboard as a packaging material, due to the rise of e-commerce, complies with Renew and Recycle principles of circular economy and therefore may not seem concerning. However, as cardboard cannot be recycled infinitely, Reduce strategy becomes highly relevant to manufacturers and retailers to address overpackaging, which can have implications for both logistics and materials sustainability. In addition, end consumers are now playing greater roles in supporting the circular supply chain of cardboards. The fibers that are tossed into the trash loses their chance to appear again in a new manufactured cardboard. This entails some educational initiatives led by big online retailors to inform consumers of their increased responsibility for managing the end of life of packaging materials.