The package crisis of online shopping solved by reusing?

An Amazon employee walks past thousands of unpackaged boxes and sorts individual packages in one of the warehouses at the Amazon logistics centre in Pforzheim, Germany, 1 December 2015. The online retailer is hoping for record sales figures this Christmas. Photo by: Christoph Schmidt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

People nowadays rely on online shopping to buy almost everything from all around the world without stepping out of the house. For protecting the goods during the transportation, the packages around the products are necessary. However, the more common the online shopping is getting, the more garbage it brings. The Greenpeace even criticized “Double 11” (China’s Single Day) as an “ecological disaster day.” To prevent this situation from worsening, there is an American startup, LimeLoop, producing reused package to respond to environmental trends.

The amount of garbage brought from online shopping has been too huge for recycling company to deal with, and some of these companies call it “Amazon Effect.” Last year, Amazon Prime delivered over 5 billion pieces of items shipping to the world. According to Pew Research Center, 8 out of 10 Americans have the habit of online shopping. It’s not hard to imagine how huge of packaging waste it is.

People work at the ZTO Express logistic delivery centre process packages one day before China’s Singles Day, traditionally the busiest day for online shopping in Beijing, China, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. China’s so-called Singles Day, is traditionally the world’s biggest online shopping day of the year, and this year is widely expected to be even busier than normal. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
FILE – In this Dec. 2, 2013 file photo, employees organize outbound packages at an Fulfillment Center on “Cyber Monday” the busiest online shopping day of the holiday season, in Phoenix. Buying things online could soon get pricier for many people after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday, Dec. 12, 2016 not to get involved in a case that may lead to states collecting billions in lost sales taxes. The court opted not to hear a challenge to a Colorado law requiring internet retailers to notify customers and the state how much they owe in Colorado taxes. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)

Based on the data of USPS, FedEx and UPS, LimeLoop estimated that there are about 165 billion packages being shipped within the U.S. each year, and the papers that were used as the packaging materials cost over 1 billion trees. Thus, LimeLoop decided to produce the reusable package, attempting to reduce the amount of waste coming from the billions times of online shopping.


LimeLoop claimed the materials of the reusable packages they produce are from recycling the billboards, and then LimeLoop turn them into the light and durable waterproof bags which are estimated being able to be reused for up to 2,000 times, and can also be washed and repaired. LimeLoop is going to cooperate with clothing company Toad & Co, planning to extend the application in order to respond to the packaging demand of online shopping.

Image taken from [email protected]
Image taken from [email protected]

Back to 2010, eBay had tried a kind of reusable and trackable cartons, but the program was ended soon. “The industry was not interested in reusable packaging like we had expected. When discussing with the retailers and brands, some companies noted that if they adopted this new packaging way, they had to reconfigure the equipment of operation. For instance, there is no space for retailers which take the orders online to place these packaging materials,” Kelly Cramer, the senior manager of environmental NGO GreenBlue, indicated.

In fact, the process of the online shopping needs to be changed. “Nowadays, the speed and effectiveness are the main factors making online stores a rage. Each company devotes efforts to solving the packaging problem. Yet, these solutions might limit the advantages of online store and influence the customer service pledge.” Cramer said. Those large transportation companies are worried whether the customers return the packages, and if they fall to return, it may cause economic losses to the company. In addition, the companies have to send personnel to withdraw the packages, and the additional fuel may have a new impact on the environment.

Despite the concerns, Cramer still considers the reusable packages work. “These kinds of materials are not that inaccessible like years ago, the reaction of brands becomes faster and the attitude also becomes opener. I am not surprised at all if there are brand willing to give it a try,” Cramer noted. Besides, the adoptions of eco-friendly and reusable packages promote a better brand image to customers, bringing the public environmental awareness and helping the brand’s future development.

In Europe, the company Repack is providing online retailers reusable bags which are designed to be easily folded, and that is convenient for customers to carry and recycle. Repack will not only disburse the charge of return, but after returning, customers will receive discount for the next purchase. Other online stores are also trying to figure out the ways to encourage the customers to return the packages. For instance, the company will plant one tree for a return of the package.

A man walks past an advertising billboard showing the mobile app of Alibaba’s Taobao consumer-to-consumer site at a subway station in Beijing Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Alibaba Group’s U.S. stock offering is a wakeup call about an emerging wave of technology giants in China’s state-dominated economy. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

There is a breakthrough about environmental concept, and people would like to lead a life in a more eco-friendly way. Plus a lot of reports accuse the packaging waste of online stores, customers regard this issue a vital factor for selection of the stores. Hence, every company is looking for the way to solve, and the reusable packages are one of these.