Online shopping has shifted recycling responsibilities to consumers

Online shopping has shifted recycling responsibilities to consumers


Boxes line the sidewalk on Green Street in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston on February 28th, 2018. | Photo by Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The fate of cardboard boxes in the US rests in the hands of consumers more than it ever has been before. In the past, brick-and-mortar retailers handled much of the leftover packaging from shipments. Malls and grocery stores usually send big bales of used but relatively clean cardboard to recycling programs so that they can be made into new boxes. Now, the rise of e-commerce, which started before the pandemic, has shifted more responsibility onto shoppers to properly dispose of boxes so that they can be recycled. Boxes are piling up on residential curbsides instead of at retail stores.

The pandemic has only accelerated this shift, which experts expect to continue even after COVID-19 is under…

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