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Every delivery has its own CO2 footprint and we need to make sure we are smart with our clicks. I believe that fibre-based packaging can help make the whole value chain of e-commerce more sustainable. In Stora Enso we call it the eco-evolution.
If we want packaging to not only protect the things we buy but also help making online buying more sustainable, we need to look at how it’s designed, what it’s made of, and the logistics behind the process.
Reducing the environmental impact of packaging depends on two things:
With efficiency, we mean for instance the amount of air in the shipment and with effectiveness, we relate to how much packaging material is needed to protect the product.
To start with, we want to reduce the amount of air that’s packaged.
Packages usually consist of protective wrapping inside of a cardboard box (which normally is too big for the items), more protective wrapping, sometimes even another cardboard box and finally your product. The consensus is that in around 60% of e-commerce deliveries, at least a quarter of the volume is bubble wrap, other plastic wrap or simply air.
This is really bad since it is a waste of carton board. Plus it wastes space in the truck, which is the worst part, as that means we need more trucks and more fuel, leading to higher emissions.
Then let’s look at the efficiency of the material. One development need is to increase strength of the material overall. Increased strength gives the same protection job done but with less material since the walls of the box can be thinner. Another important development is strength retention when getting wet. Especially in countries with high humidity, boxes start to lose their strength and squash together when stacked up. This might damage the content and requires more material to be used.
At Stora Enso, our goal is to support consumers to meet growing demands for eco-friendly and circular solutions and we work on creating more sustainable designs every day.
Today, more and more plastic films and filling materials are being replaced by fibre-based options. But while much of the packaging material used can be recycled, excessive packaging still puts stress on the recycling infrastructure.
In the past, when we made most purchases in the stores, the stores themselves took care of recycling transport packaging. This led to high recycling rates and that the industry was provided with recycled fibres to be circulated back into new paperboard materials.
The rise in e-commerce means that it’s now up to consumers to properly recycle transport and other packaging. Here too, fibre-based material is the best choice since in addition to being renewable, paper and cardboard are also the most recycled packaging materials in Europe, with 83% ending up being recycled. For plastic, that number is much lower – around 40%. There’s also already a solid collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure in place for fiber-based materials, which makes them easier to recycle at greater scale.
The entire e-commerce process needs solutions that require:
Here, as in many cases, packaging has the potential to become a hero product when it comes to innovative sustainable design.