Cardboard packaging has become so scarce it’s now dubbed ‘beige gold’, according to ParcelHero.

The home delivery specialist is warning that the shortage, driven by the surge in online shopping during the pandemic, could lead to damaged parcels, increased costs and delays to home deliveries.

ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks, said: “The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) says demand for cardboard boxes from online retailers is five years ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

“On top of this increased demand, lockdown means packaging is taking longer to be recycled because shops and restaurants, when they are open, recycle more quickly than domestic users.

“Add to the mix packaging being stockpiled in warehouses because of Brexit, and there’s little wonder there is a severe shortage.

"It’s a boxing match that looks like delivering a knockout blow to some smaller retailers. The shortage means individuals sending a parcel are unable to find correctly sized boxes and specialist companies are having difficulty sourcing packaging. Companies shipping goods requiring dedicated boxes are having to delay shipments while they find alternative sources.

He added: “The Great Cardboard Crisis of 2021 means it is high time to consider alternative, green packaging materials. ParcelHero has been advocating ‘mushroom’ packaging since 2017. It’s something we’d like to see, well, mushrooming.

“Companies such as toiletries manufacturer Lush are already using biodegradable packaging made from fungi-based mycelium packaging. Dell has even used this sustainable product to protect its 200lb servers during the delivery process.”

ParcelHero has produced a report on alternative, sustainable packaging materials: 'How Can Sustainable Packaging Prevent Waste?' which is available at