Courier firms make Sin­gles Day pack­ag­ing green

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Business -

BEI­JING — In the run-up to the Sin­gles Day shop­ping bo­nanza last week, on­line mar­ket­places in China wooed shop­pers with prom­ises of faster de­liv­ery.

At the same time, the gov­ern­ment started work­ing on ad­dress­ing the “af­ter­math” of on­line sales — hun­dreds of mil­lions of met­ric tons of pack­ag­ing waste gen­er­ated across the coun­try each year.

The State Post Bureau or SPB re­cently an­nounced spe­cific goals to green the courier sec­tor.

By 2020, half of ex­ter­nal pack­ages should be degrad­able, 90 per­cent of way­bills elec­tronic, and pack­ing ma­te­rial con­sumed for each par­cel cut by 10 per­cent, the SPB said in a doc­u­ment.

Tape and wo­ven bags should be grad­u­ally re­placed.

“Given the rapidly-grow­ing ex­press de­liv­ery in­dus­try, the im­pacts of pack­ag­ing waste on the en­vi­ron­ment can not be ig­nored,” the SPB said, not­ing a courier pack­age reg­u­la­tion sys­tem will be built.

The move came amid Sin­gles’ Day sales, seen by many as China’s ver­sion of Black Fri­day.

The SPB pre­dicted the shop­ping spree will boost the num­ber of pack­ages han­dled be­tween Nov 11 and 16 to 1.5 bil­lion, up 35 per­cent from the same pe­riod a year ago. The daily vol­ume could hit 340 mil­lion, three times the usual level.

De­spite mea­sures from hir­ing more couri­ers to de­ploy­ing smart ware­houses, courier ser­vice providers still face the chal­lenge of en­sur­ing on-time de­liv­ery. How­ever, what the en­vi­ron­ment is con­fronted with is much more se­ri­ous.

Pack­ages mainly made of pa­per and plas­tics have re­sulted in more con­sump­tion of wood and crude oil, ac­cord­ing to Yang Jun, deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral of the China Ex­press As­so­ci­a­tion.

Pro­duc­ing a ton of pa­per boxes takes 17 ten-year-old trees, and three tons of oil is re­quired for a ton of plas­tic bags, data showed.

The re­cy­cling of pack­ag­ing waste is an­other prob­lem. “Cur­rently, there are no ef­fec­tive sys­tems for garbage sort­ing

Less than 10 per­cent of pack­ag­ing ma­te­ri­als are re­cy­cled, Zeng said.

“China should speed up green trans­for­ma­tion in the courier sec­tor,” Yang said, adding that all ex­press de­liv­ery com­pa­nies, on­line stores and con­sumers should be in­volved.

Ma­jor e-com­merce busi­nesses have moved to ease the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

Sun­ing.com’s pres­i­dent Hou En­long said the on­line plat­form will use plas­tic boxes for ex­press de­liv­ery that can be folded and re­cy­cled to re­place card­board ones. The com­pany first tried non-fold­ing boxes half-a-year ago and 6.5 mil­lion card­board boxes have been saved since then.

Hou plans to in­crease the to­tal num­ber of boxes to 200,000 from the cur­rent 50,000 for the de­liv­ery of con­sumer elec­tron­ics, mother and baby prod­ucts, and fast­mov­ing con­sumer goods in 2018.

JD.com and Alibaba’s de­liv­ery unit Cainiao.com have also car­ried out sim­i­lar pro­grams that fea­ture biodegrad­able ma­te­ri­als pack­ag­ing.

But in­con­ve­nience in de­liv­ery and re­cy­cling have to some ex­tent curbed the pro­mo­tion of a more eco-friendly pack­ag­ing sys­tem and some­times dis­pos­able pack­ag­ing ap­pears to be much more fa­vored by con­sumers, such as when pur­chas­ing fresh prod­ucts.

Shi Miao, Cainiao.com’s vice-pres­i­dent, said on­line stores could give ex­tra mem­ber­ship points to mo­ti­vate con­sumers to choose green pack­ag­ing.

“In our pub­lic wel­fare pro­gram, our clients can ex­change their points for plant­ing a tree in North­west China’s deserts,” he said.

Thanks to the mo­ti­va­tion, Cainiao.com’s green pack­ages have been used 5 mil­lion times this year, Shi said.

An­a­lysts said steer­ing to­ward green pack­ag­ing is the long-term trend for the courier sec­tor al­though it still needs time to achieve a com­plete trans­for­ma­tion. and less

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