By: Stefan Christie
5 Minute Read
Looking back 10 years who would have thought the online marketplace would be such a huge part in our lives?
And, it doesn’t really come with a surprise, does it? With the pandemic and all, everyone turned to online shopping. Ecommerce is all transactions made via the internet, basically meaning online shopping.
With the increase in online orders, waste has increased. Packaging like mailer bags, shipping boxes, packing tape have all had knock-on effects on waste management systems. Today, we’re going to review the solutions that are currently out there and what the future holds in mailer bags.
Single-use mailing bags have been around since mid-late 1900’s and are still commonly used around the globe today. But, there’s no hiding the fact that plastic has caused significant problems and will continue to litter the oceans and countryside for years to come. People like David Attenborough have helped people to understand the impact of single-use plastics on the environment, and provoked brands and individuals to make changes.
The upsurge of public opinion and outrage about the sustainability of products has forced brands to steer away from plastic products and packaging. Over 70% of consumers now prefer to purchase from brands that are sustainable rather than those continuing to use single-use plastics!
Plus, the introduction of the Plastic Tax in April 2022 has made businesses have to pay an extra £200/tonne of plastic packaging that has less than 30% recycled content, leading to companies looking for plastic alternatives. And further changes coming into play in 2023 will mean companies have to report on the quantity of waste and pay per material type.
Giving materials a second use is an improvement but still not quite the ultimate solution. Although it’s a more eco alternative to virgin plastic mailing bags, it could still end up in landfill or, even worse, in the realm of nature. Recycled packaging is a good quick fix, but in the long-term companies will have to move with the times and find a more sustainable alternative.
The most important point to look into when considering recycled packaging is its disposal after use. With kerbside recycling so easily available around the UK, it’s become a popular solution for business to consumer brands, especially recycled cardboard. In fact, 68% of cardboard is recycled after use! And, the cost for businesses to dispose of cardboard waste is lower than other materials, making it a popular choice for brands.
The rise of the circular economy mindset where products can be used repeatedly instead of being thrown away is a no brainer. The recycling of cardboard and paper has lead to a decrease in deforestation, having a knock on effect with nature and issues such as soil erosion.
An innovative, new material come to the market is sugar cane PLA. Being made from a plant rather than oil means it’s a good alternative to standard plastic and can be recycled. There are a number of recycled plastic packaging products which can be further recycled, but it’s important to ask your supplier for a material certification to ensure this is legitimate. A common certificate is the GRS. (Global Recycling Scheme)
Infrastructure plays a major part in the future of ecommerce packaging. Now that recycling infrastructure is in place for paper and cardboard, we are seeing a big increase in the amount of paper and cardboard packaging used. If plastic is going to become a bigger part of the future then a serious investment is going to be needed and governments will be question, is it really worth it? There is already too much plastic waste, so consumers are demanding better from the brands they purchase from.
With the more futuristic drone and Starship Robot deliveries being trialed, it could really shape the new delivery scene. A whole new industry could be created, and resources such as charges and charging stations and maintenance teams will need to be in place. With the constant testing and trialing of these new ideas, there will no doubt be further innovations as we find new ways to do things.
This is predicted to have a big future. A product which breaks down into unharmful bio products. There’s always going to be waste which ends up in the countryside, or on the side of the road, so if the material can degrade naturally, it will have less impact on nature.
Products like water-soluble polybags and home compostable packaging is starting to become more popular and could turn into the new norm. Plus, composting facilities are on the rise and governments are offering garden compost waste bins which can turn some packaging into compost.
But beware! A lot of products are marked as “biodegradable” but if you read further into them, these are in fact incorrect. A range of plastic packaging has chemical additives added to help break the plastic down faster, but into smaller versions of the plastic. If this type of material gets into a batch of recycling, then it can contaminate the full batch, meaning it all has to be disposed of into landfill!
This is on the rise, reusable mailing solutions. Companies like Repack are already showing how this can be done with their reusable mailer. As time goes on, there will be ways of claiming money back for returning reusable packaging to supermarkets or post offices, like they have in Germany with glass and plastic bottles.
Or, brands may choose to implement this themselves and encourage customers to bring the mailing bag back to the store for further use. With RFID technology, brands can trace the use of each bag to make sure money is saved in comparison to using single-use packaging.
Governments are also putting pressure on businesses to use reusable packaging where possible. Targets are in place to hit 50% reusable ecommerce packaging by 2040, and 10% by 2030. There are likely to be government grants offered up to firms looking to implement the reusable solutions into their companies.
As briefly discussed earlier, these are already being trialed and are on the rise. The Starship being a common one to delivery groceries from local convenience stores. They provide a cost-effective delivery solution.
The USA are using drones to deliver goods to Ghana and Rwanda. This transport reduces risk and means aid can be sent into places that are difficult to reach. As technology increases, no doubt we will see an increase in different delivery schemes.
With the world always changing, it’s hard to predict the future. But, one thing is for sure, sustainability is always going to be there, protecting the planet is always going to be at the forefront of consumer minds, and brands have to be prepared to change. It’s important to trial and test different types of packaging for your eCommerce operations to see which one works best for you. And keeping up to date with government initiatives, taxes and changes in relation to packaging always helps.
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