Plastic packaging, landfills, biodegradable, non-biodegradable, waste segregation are complex concepts to understand which come with more complex problems like negative impact on the earth’s ecosystem, ocean and land pollution, and more.
What’s more dangerous is the direct impact of increasing plastic use in packaging on global warming. If you still haven’t grasped the magnitude of the problem, then here are some stats that’ll put things into perspective for you.
Yearly plastic packaging waste can be enough in length to circle the entire earth at least four times. The amount of plastic wastage outnumbers the sea life by six to one because of which around 100 million marine animals die each year. 50% of the plastic produced can only be used once which means it directly ends up in ocean, seas, or landfills and we produce around 380 million tonnes of plastic, every year.
We can go on and on but I think these stats have shed enough light on the issue for everyone to be concerned about it.
Attempting to replace plastic completely is a long, long journey but it definitely needs our collective attention at this very moment. Since it’s a global-level problem, we will need a starting point to narrow our focus. And what better place to start than the part of the problem that’s rising aggressively?
We are talking about the plastic waste generated by the eCommerce industry. An industry that’s on an upward growth trend since its inception and hasn’t shown any signs of going the other way. With its growth, the plastic waste they produce for order fulfillment technology is also going to grow.
Currently, the usage of packaging material by the eCommerce industry is around 86 million tons per year. But that’s not the main problem. The main problem is that only 14% of this 86 million tons of packaging waste is recyclable.
So, how do we tackle a problem of this magnitude?
By being creative and innovative.
And that’s what we are going to talk about in this article.
4 Innovative Ways for Ecommerce and Marketplaces are Ditching Plastic Packaging
1. Implementing Circular Economy
Circular economies are among the best solutions to tackle certain kinds of problems. They are designed in such a way that the resources stay in the system for as long as possible so that they can be reused and repurposed, thereby decreasing the total generated waste.
Here’s how it can be implemented to tackle the increasing plastic packaging problem of the eCommerce industry: fulfillment services, logistics providers and last-mile delivery parties will need to collect the discarded packaging material from the end customers for reuse, recycle, or even for sale.
The success of implementing this model for better management of wastage depends entirely on educating the end customers. They will need to be educated about the impact of their purchases on the environment. Moreover, they can be incentivized for cooperating in providing wastage in bulk.
For implementing this strategy, one of the major obstacles eCommerce companies and marketplaces can face is reverse logistics which is quite a capital-intensive and detail-oriented process.
The process needs to be coordinated and kept transparent among customers and vendors. According to the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, the eCommerce industry can learn something from the meal kit industry which is leading in the development of packaging waste collection programs.
2. Adapting Sustainable Packaging Practices
Apart from being environment-friendly, adopting sustainable packaging practices come with benefits like the expansion of the customer base along with improved loyalty, lower shipping costs, and more.
Here are a few sustainable packaging strategies that eCommerce businesses can implement to take their first step towards being environment friendly:
- Compostable and biodegradable alternatives of plastic
- The materials used for this kind of packaging are compostable and are usually made from a plant-based polymer. These can be composted at home as well as commercially. The number of days it takes for the packaging to compost is based on the quality and materials used to create such kind of packaging.
- Edible and plant-based packaging
- Imagine receiving a parcel with packaging that can be turned into a plant. Yes, that’s right. Plant-based packaging allows eCommerce companies and marketplaces to reduce wastage and at the same time promote plantation. Then there’s edible packaging which works the best for the food and beverage industry. Both the packaging are made from biological sources.
- Tieing up with manufacturers following environment-friendly practices
- This a great way towards being a more sustainable and environment-friendly organization. If you have spare resources, you can invest in your suppliers and manufacturers and enable them to adopt more sustainable practices; just like Apple does with their suppliers to stay one step ahead of the technological advancements.
3. Optimizing the Supply Chain
The supply chain and the delivery practices also contribute highly to the pollution caused by eCommerce and marketplaces.
Along with product packaging, optimizing the supply chain by discontinuing the free shipping option or by implementing a minimum order value feature can help eCommerce companies become more sustainable.
You will need a skilled workforce to execute this task. You need to ensure that you are hiring the most reliable experienced individuals while tracking applicants.
Such practices will directly destress their entire supply chain as the number of trucks on the road decreases due to the better management of space inside the trucks.
Along with the recyclable packaging practices, the eCommerce businesses will also have to consider and make necessary changes in the shipping practices, methods, and policies.
4. Temperature-controlled Packaging
Perishable goods produced by the food and beverage industry usually have a shorter shelf life and need specialized transportation and logistics.
In 2019, around 15-20% of the total sales of the food and beverage industry are online sales and these numbers are going to keep growing in the future because of the pandemic as well as digital disruption the industry is going through.
For a better customer experience while being environment-friendly, eCommerce businesses can invest in sustainable insulating materials for their packaging and delivery processes. This will keep the food fresh, customers happy, and this earth alive.
Packaging is an Integral Part of Ecommerce
Just like building a site is important to woo customers, the customers also want the brands to take social responsibility and accountability for their actions as they are becoming more conscious about the consequences of choices.
Adopting more sustainable packaging practices is an ongoing trend among eCommerce giants, but we say do it for the planet you call home.
And since we still haven’t gotten a timeline for Mars colonization from Elon, we’d like our planet to be habitable for a little while longer.
P.S. It’s not just a brand’s responsibility to make better decisions and choices, you are equally part of this ecosystem, make wiser and sustainable choices.