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Where did the paper boxes, tape and other stuff go after the Singles’ Day?

By Zhao Tong (People's Daily Online)    16:48, November 15, 2019


According to Xinhua on Nov. 13, 2019, after Singles’ Day, packages have been delivered to home one after another. However, many people wonder where does the package waste go?

The disposal of used express packaging is still a difficult problem

According to Cainiao Network Technology Co., Ltd, Tmall itself had 1.3 billion orders on Singles’ Day. From 5.7 billion orders in 2012 to over 50 billion orders in 2018, the number of express orders in China has grown rapidly in recent years.

Industry insiders predicted that the number of express orders will exceed 60 billion in 2019. Following the rapid growth of express orders is the explosive increase of express packaging waste.

Express packaging is mainly paper boxes and plastic bags. According to a report about the generation characteristics and management status of express packaging waste in China released by organizations such as the All-China Environmental Protection Federation, through practitioners' estimates and sample weight investigations, less than 5 percent of the packaging waste is reused, and most of them are recycled, accounting for about 80 percent.

But from an environmental point of view, the industry insiders are advised to reuse rather than recycle. If the used express packaging products are recycled, the disposal chain of the paper box will be longer, and the pulp inside them will bring about a lot of carbon emissions in the process of reproduction.

Express plastic packaging waste, at present, contains mainly plastic film, stuffing and transparent tape. These plastic packaging objects are low in value, and difficult to recycle. Most of them are regarded as domestic waste to be burned or disposed of in landfills. Nevertheless, both consumers and sellers of various e-commerce platforms are prone to excessive packaging.

It is not easy for the express delivery industry to turn “green”

In fact, the "greenization" of the express logistics industry has attracted the attention of many people. Many measures have been taken on packaging, distribution, recycling and other links.

Some express delivery companies have set up recycling boxes at express delivery points to encourage residents to return paper boxes to promote recycling.

Yang Jun, deputy secretary general of China Express Association, said that the penetration rate of electronic sheets in the industry is more than 90 percent, and paper consumption is at least 40 percent lower than before.

However, there are still some difficulties in the specific implementation process, which require the joint participation of express delivery enterprises, e-commerce platforms, merchants, consumers and other parties.

Take the recycling of paper boxes as an example, Shenzhen University has set up recycling locations to encourage students to open their package on site, and are plaing the packaging boxes into the recycling disposal system. However, due to issues of convenience or privacy, during the peak period, about 170 people picked up their packages within one hour, but only seven of them were dismantled on site. Very few people are willing to cooperate with the recycling work.

Some express companies said that the express site space is too small to store a large number of recycled paper boxes. In addition, there is no clear incentive policy for the recycling and reusing of paper boxes on the e-commerce platform and amongst express companies, so, the many express companies are lacking of real motivations to recycle.

Looking forward to having "mandatory standards" and "exploration of new business forms"

As for these bottlenecks of the express industry, industry insiders are suggesting that new modes are explored for the express delivery industry by utilizing marketing methods as well as refining of industry standards.

Ni Yao, an official of All-China Environment Federation, believed that domestic policies and regulations about reducing excessive packaging, improving recycling and reusing are mainly advocated, but no corresponding mandatory or incentive policy. As a result, the green packaging innovation of e-commerce platforms and express delivery companies is not motivated enough.

Some industry insiders suggested that green packaging should be one of the admission conditions for express delivery companies to engage in the express delivery business in a manner that promotes green information disclosure as well as consumers’ green choices.

In addition, Zhong Fang, an official from Innovation and sustainable design lab in Academy of Arts&Design, Tsinghua Universiy, suggested that a recycling mechanism and recycling system for packaging materials would be established, and furthermore encouraged the exploration of new express delivery formats. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Bianji)

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