As online shopping flourishes, nearly half of consumers say they have received a rain-damaged cardboard package, according to a national survey by paper and packaging leader DS Smith. Following the recent pandemic-fueled e-commerce spike, 44% say their cardboard box deliveries were spoiled by rain.

The problem in the U.S. is expected to be widespread, given that the nation’s top 70 metro areas record rainfall an average of nearly every four days, and the popularity of e-commerce remains high post pandemic. Half of those polled say they already are getting deliveries weekly or several times a week, and more than half say they expect their online buying to increase going forward.

The company’s survey also indicates wide appeal for environmentally friendly products, with more than 80% saying sustainability of packaging matters to them – so much so that a big bloc are willing to pay more for that in their products.

“As e-commerce becomes part of our everyday lives and the consumer demand for sustainable products becomes ever greater, the task is to innovate to make sure we not only protect packages, but also design them for a sustainable outcome. The weather can’t be an excuse for online orders arriving soggy and damaged at doorsteps, nor can the need for weather protection stand in the way of recycling,” said Melanie Galloway, DS Smith, vice president of sales, marketing and innovation.

“Aside from the frustration that people will feel when they come home to a waterlogged delivery, the cost to businesses in replacing water damaged items is significant. As the world around us changes, we need industry to innovate with it, and that includes designing for problems like those the weather brings us, as well as the need to reduce waste and keep materials in use for as long as possible,” she said.

In response to the evident challenge, DS Smith has developed Greencoat, which is a coated, water resistant, fully recyclable corrugated solution. The company’s innovative product line is designed to meet the growing demand among consumers and businesses for sustainable packaging.

In the survey of 1,000 adults, taken Oct. 14-18, almost two-thirds say they’d be more likely to buy goods packed in or using paper or cardboard that can be reused or recycled. Many shoppers – about 30% – say they’d be willing to pay up to 24% more for sustainability in their products.

DS Smith’s Greencoat can provide more protection from the original shipper to consumers’ doorsteps as an innovative plastic-free solution, avoiding the need for plastic bags to protect products on customers’ doorsteps and suitable in place of other plastic-based packaging. Greencoat plays an impactful role in helping the company reach its goal to remove one billion pieces of problem plastic from packaging and work with partners to find solutions for hard-to-recycle packaging by 2025.

The development of Greencoat enabled over 530,000 tons of corrugated packaging to be recycled instead of landfilled and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one million metric tons over an eight-year period. That is the equivalent of removing annual emissions from 373,247 vehicles or conserving the energy spent by 86,169 households every year.

DS Smith, in its operations, supports a circular economy that aims to reduce and eliminate waste and advocates for the reuse of materials, and as part of its “Now and Next Sustainability Strategy,” the company by 2030 will use packaging and recycling to replace problem plastics, reduce customer carbon and eliminate consumer packaging waste.

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.