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With the rise of Same Day and 1 Hour delivery, it seems we can get even our minor cravings satisfied as if they were urgent needs.

This market based on instant gratification may be encouraging us to become trigger happy with our online shopping, but there is one thing that definitely takes our time. Dealing with all that packaging. We’ve all experienced having a CD delivered in a box capable of housing a small family, and then having to go through the effort of cramming it into a recycling bin.

But, whose responsibility is packaging waste?

With the e-commerce industry doubling over the past 5 years, you’d expect the rise of packaging production to also increase. However there has been little indication that it has as cardboard production has remained fairly steady. So, no issue right?

Let’s do some myth busting.


“Packaging production isn’t increasing, so we don’t need to worry about waste”

This lack of increase is mainly because companies have become more efficient in packaging and reducing the amount used. However, there is a limit of how efficient this can be and with deliveries showing no sign of slowing down, soon this packaging production will rapidly increase. We are already seeing the introduction of grocery boxes individually packaging tablespoons of oil.


“It is more environmentally friendly to deliver straight to customers from warehouses, as it cuts down the need to distribute to thousands of stores and for customers to drive there”

Despite increase in online shopping, there is actually little sign of a reduction in visiting local stores. Also, smaller shipments like the ones used for direct-to-customer sales require more padding as the delivery chain is much longer and packages are handle 5 times more. More padding, more packaging, more emissions from lots of small deliveries.


“Packaging isn’t an issue if we use recyclable cardboard”

Unfortunately there is a lot of debate around this. Although recycled cardboard takes 25% less energy to produce than new cardboard, the recycling process uses lots of energy and water itself. It definitely can’t be considered carbon neutral. Unfortunately, most cardboard packaging isn’t recycled by it’s customers and ends up in landfills polluting the environment.

 

However, there are some companies pioneering fantastic packaging innovations!

 

Dell, reduced its box size by 10%, used compostable and recyclable bamboo cushioning and made packaging from wheat straw (produced from agricultural waste). The result of this was that it reduced 20 million pounds of packaging and saved £18 million in energy, water, transportation and production costs. Even better was it reduced Dell packaging greenhouse emissions by 8%! By 2020 Dell plan to have 100% sustainable packaging.


Even more impressive is the rise of zero waste shops like Bulk Market in London! Encouraging customers to bring their own refillable containers, Bulk Market is pioneering the move towards drastically reducing packaging!


Although these innovations are very exciting, the fight against waste packaging eventually boils down to the consumer. Let’s ditch the gotta-have-it-now purchases and start slowing down on consumption. Here’s some tips:

Slow down. Shop less but buy better.
Encourage your favourite brands to improve their packaging.
Support brands like Bulk Market in their anti-packaging mission.
Avoid single use plastics.
Recycle any packaging you can’t avoid.
 

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