Sustainable ecommerce: reusable packaging on the go

February 4, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren
February 4, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren

Buying products online is gaining popularity every year. This means an increase in the number of deliveries and return shipments, and additional pressure that is being put on the environment. Sustainability is therefore an important point of attention within the ecommerce sector. Sustainable packaging plays an important role in making the sector more sustainable. Sturdy packaging is of course necessary to protect products properly, but those packaging must subsequently leave the smallest possible impact on the environment. Reusable packaging provides an opportunity to improve sustainability and customer experience.

Ecommerce packages are on average 63 percent full. The remaining space consists of air

Transporting empty air
Too large packages and excessive use of filling material can count on little sympathy from the consumer. 60 percent of consumers are annoyed by too large a package and too much filling material when ordering. According to measurements from the VIL, ecommerce packages are on average 63 percent full. The remaining space consists of air. This is unnecessary and consumers are therefore ready for sustainable choices. Fortunately, more and more companies are choosing to facilitate this through the use of more compact packaging that requires less filling material. For example, the fulfilment company Active Ants has developed an automatic wrapping machine with which the required cardboard is cut exactly to size. More compact packaging ensures that savings are made on loading volume in delivery vehicles. This allows more packages to be sent in one vehicle, which reduces the number of transport movements and reduces CO2 emissions.

Reusable packaging
Only the development of more compact packaging that requires less filling material does not solve the problem of large quantities of cardboard boxes and plastic packaging for consumers. To tackle this problem, more and more companies are slowly investing in the realization of reusable packaging. In many cases, the consumer pays a deposit in return for the reusable packaging. After receipt, the consumer gives the package back to the delivery person or the consumer sends it back to the ecommerce company, after which the consumer receives the deposit back. The packaging can then be used for a next order. Depending on the type of reusable packaging, it sometimes can be reused up to 1000 times. If this is no longer possible, the packaging will be recycled.

An example of a company that has developed reusable ecommerce packaging is UPS. UPS, in partnership with recycling company TerraCycle, announced the launch of reusable packaging system called ‘Loop’. Consumers will be offered a variety of products in customized, brand-specific durable packaging that is delivered directly to consumers, then collected, cleaned, refilled and redelivered. With the Loop system, UPS and TerraCycle want to eliminate the idea of packaging waste and improve the product experience and shopping convenience.

Another company that focuses on reusable packaging is Omoda. Omoda, in collaboration with Paardekooper, has launched the ecobox. This is a more sustainable shipping option than cardboard boxes or plastic bags. The plastic shipping box is foldable, making it easy to return through the letterbox.

The challenges
The problem that is often encountered when developing a reusable packaging is that it is often expensive and hard to develop, and that a good return procedure is difficult to realize. Returns are crucial to the circular economy. The ability to create a circular supply chain will be in the packaging’s durability as it moves through the last mile, then in reverse and over again. The challenge is to develop reusable packaging system with reusable packaging that is durable, sturdy, affordable and easy to return. In this way, the product ordered online is not damaged during shipment to the consumer, the packaging is accessible to a wide audience and durable enough to be used time and again.



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Blog by: Nienke van Meekeren
Sources used: Recycling Today,, Twinkle
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