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China accelerates greenization of courier sector

With the expansion of e-commerce, how to promote green packaging and avoid over-packaging in the courier sector has come under the spotlight in China in recent years.

By Li Xinping, Lyu Shaogang, People’s Daily

Relevant Chinese government departments, courier companies and consumers are joining hands to accelerate the greenization of the courier sector through endeavors from reducing and reusing packaging to optimizing the logistics system.

Just a few days ago, a resident surnamed He in Chaoyang district, Beijing, received a call from a deliveryman, who said that the fruit she bought via an e-commerce platform arrived.

After He told the deliveryman to put the package at the door of her house, the deliveryman reminded her not to throw away the insulated box in which the fruit is kept, and that he would collect it later at her convenience, He recalled.

The e-commerce platform He uses has adopted insulated box for years. “Salmon, codfish and lamb chops, which I often buy from the platform, are all kept in such boxes,” He said, adding that deliverymen collect them for reuse every time.

Workers produce biodegradable packaging bags at an industrial park in Tongcheng Economic and Technological Development Zone in east China’s Anhui province, Jan. 7, 2021. (Photo by Jiang Sheng/People’s Daily Online)
Workers produce biodegradable packaging bags at an industrial park in Tongcheng Economic and Technological Development Zone in east China’s Anhui province, Jan. 7, 2021. (Photo by Jiang Sheng/People’s Daily Online)

Such recyclable insulated boxes represent one of the attempts of express delivery companies to explore greener packaging.

According to industry insiders, the packaging of parcels mainly fall into six categories. As regards the main packaging, 10 percent is envelopes, 55 percent boxes, and 34 percent plastic bags. Besides, there are packaging fillers, tape and bags used for the transfer of packages.

Reducing packaging of parcels is an important part of promoting green packaging.

According to a warehouse manager with an express delivery company, the enterprise used more than 50,000 recyclable boxes at a warehouse per day during China’s Singles’ Day shopping festival this year, compared with more than 200,000 boxes and plastic packaging materials in the past.

Another courier service provider, together with an e-commerce platform, set up 60,000 sites to encourage the collection of used packaging, and 10,000 sites to pilot a project for reusing packaging in wrapping up parcels, promoting package recycling in multiple forms.

To reduce unnecessary packaging and make packaging greener and recyclable, the State Post Bureau of China (SPB) has advanced the addition of provisions on packaging governance to e-commerce law and other laws, guiding courier companies in enhancing technological innovation in key areas including green packaging.

In addition, the SPB has specified requirements for express delivery operations in many documents, steadily advancing the recycling and reusing of packaging waste.

By digitizing waybills and rectifying excessive packaging, China’s courier sector has made great progress in greenization.

Last year, the express delivery industry saved 83.3 billion sheets of A4 paper by employing digital waybills. Meanwhile, it has reduced the layers of corrugated cardboards on corrugated cases from five to three and even less, the thickness of packaging bags from 0.06 mm to 0.03 mm, and tape width from 60 mm and above to 45 mm and below.

A deliveryman puts packaging into a recycling bin at an outlet of express delivery company SF Express in Jinhua city, east China’s Zhejiang province, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Li Jianlin/People’s Daily Online)
A deliveryman puts packaging into a recycling bin at an outlet of express delivery company SF Express in Jinhua city, east China’s Zhejiang province, Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Li Jianlin/People’s Daily Online)

By encouraging express delivery service providers to set up standard-compliant packaging waste recycling facilities at their outlets to reuse packaging boxes and fillers in good shape and up to standard quality and motivating deliverymen to collect used boxes and fillers at consumers’ houses or the outlets, the SPB is building a reverse logistics chain for packaging recycling.

Up to now, over 3.8 million recyclable packaging boxes and cases have been put into use in the industry, which have effectively helped reduce the use of packaging boxes, bags and fillers.

As consumers’ habits also affect the promotion of environment-friendly packaging, an express delivery company has worked with an e-commerce platform to set up 13,000 recycling bins to encourage consumers to take part in packaging recycling.

During last year’s Singles’ Day shopping festival, they prepared 500,000 fresh eggs every day and gave them for free to consumers who participated in relevant activities.

The SPB plans to comprehensively promote the green governance of packaging, improve relevant laws and regulations, standards and policy systems, and continue to promote greener and recyclable packaging and rectify over-packaging, according to an executive with the SPB.

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