DS Smith survey: Online shoppers frustrated by excessive packaging this holiday season

Online shoppers are fed up with a glut of packages arriving too big for the products being shipped, too flimsy, covered with too much tape or not being waterproof or recyclable. 

Those are among the main findings of a newly released national survey by packaging leader DS Smith, which tracked the frustrations amid a jump in e-commerce over the past two years that is continuing into the holiday season.

Consumers in the survey (81%) overwhelmingly say sustainability of packaging matters to them, so much so that about 40% would pay more for that. A third say they would pay up to 24% more, and nearly another third would pay at least 25% or more.

DS Smith said the results underscore its efforts to provide environmentally friendly products that replace problem plastics, remove carbon from supply chains and provide innovative recycling solutions. 

“Online shopping remains popular so the onus is on business to design out waste and make sure materials can stay in use for as long as possible,” said DS Smith’s Melanie Galloway, vice president sales marketing and innovation. “That is why DS Smith’s mission is to be a leader in the sustainable packaging space, working to offer innovative solutions to these problems to make consumers’ sustainability goals easier to achieve.”

The poll also showed widespread support among consumers to recycle. More than 40% say their recycling has increased since the onset of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, and nearly 70% say they recycle cardboard packaging from online deliveries always or most of the time. 

That embrace of recycling matches the spike in e-commerce, with two thirds saying their frequency of buying online has increased, and more than half saying they expect that to continue to grow.

Still, consumers expressed frustrations. Citing boxes with too much extra space, 38% say about half of their deliveries were filled with air and 39% say it was a quarter of air. Among other problems with their packages:

·        Too big for the products being shipped, 41%

·        Uses too much filler, 29%

·        Not waterproof, 27%

·        Is flimsy and easily damaged, 25%

·        Uses too much plastic tape, 24%

·        Difficult to open, 21%

·        Not recyclable, 12% 

In a signal of their push for sustainable products, two thirds of consumers (64%) surveyed say they would be more likely to purchase products either packaged in or using paper and cardboard so it can be reused or recycled.

Oversized boxes containing excess packing material take up more space during transit, so the potential ripple effect is unnecessary delivery trips which can have an impact on the amount of carbon emissions being produced.  

“The idea of oversized boxes, containing excess packing material, that in turn overly fill delivery trucks, is not something any of us should perpetuate – consumers don’t want it, businesses can’t afford it, and ultimately the planet won’t thank us for it,” Galloway said.

DS Smith has a circular business focused on sustainable packaging in which designs are based on a circular economy approach. This is an alternative solution for the current linear economy that is based on a ‘take, make, consume and dispose’ mindset. It is a model that is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. 

Survey methodology

The poll was conducted Oct. 14-18 with 1,000 respondents, a total that generally has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It was conducted using an online data collection methodology with the research firm Torfac.

About DS Smith

DS Smith is a leading provider of sustainable fiber-based packaging worldwide, which is supported by recycling and papermaking operations. It plays a central role in the value chain across sectors including e-commerce, fast moving consumer goods and industrials. Through its purpose of ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’ and its Now and Next sustainability strategy, DS Smith is committed to leading the transition to the circular economy, while delivering more circular solutions for its customers and wider society – replacing problem plastics, taking carbon out of supply chains and providing innovative recycling solutions. Its bespoke box-to-box in 14 days model, design capabilities and innovation strategy sits at the heart of this response. Headquartered in London and a member of the FTSE 100, DS Smith operates in 34 countries employing around 30,000 people and is a Strategic Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Its history can be traced back to the box-making businesses started in the 1940s by the Smith family. North American operations are based in Atlanta, with 15 manufacturing, paper and recycling facilities, totaling more than 2,000 employees. DS Smith will report annually its progress across its climate targets in its Sustainability and Annual Reports.