China looks for “green delivery” methods to cut express delivery packaging waste

A worker places shared parcel boxes on the conveyor belt in a logistic base in Jiangsu province.

Parcel packaging pollution has recently become an environmental threat as the daily lives of citizens are increasingly facilitated by the growing express delivery industry.

Statistics show that less than 20 percent of general packaging used on express delivery parcels in China had been recycled in 2017, and the figure for cardboard and plastic package recycling was even lower at 10 percent.

A total of 40 billion parcels were delivered across the country in the last year, and all the tape used to seal these parcels would be able to reach around the globe 425 times.

In Chinese mega cities, the newly produced parcel packaging garbage accounted for 93 percent of total household garbage, while the figure stood at 85 to 90 percent across major cities.

Ma Shengjun, head of China’s State Post Bureau, said that the country will guide more enterprises with a “green delivery” campaign and promote the use of degradable packaging. In addition, material management and advanced packaging technologies will be enhanced to further lower material consumption.

E-commerce giant Alibaba’s chairman Jack Ma once said on Chinese micro-blogging website Weibo that speed is what keeps the industry running, but greenness is what keeps it winning.

Alibaba has set a goal that its e-commerce platform Tmall will go green with all of its packaging before 2020.

JD, Alibaba’s rival company, predicted that by 2020, the use of single-use cardboard packaging will have decreased by 10 billion pieces, and 80% of the packaging material will be recyclable at the supply end.

However, the change of packaging materials is only part of the environmentally-friendly delivery. Major e-commerce platforms and logistics enterprises still have to optimize their production and data analysis to seek new paths.

“Big data can be applied to delivery routes planning, thus reducing fuel consumption and promoting environmental protection,” said Wan Lin, the president of Alibaba’s logistics platform, Cainiao Network Technology Co.

In addition, establishing an incentive mechanism that encourages consumers to make greener decisions will also further balance the contradiction between the high costs of green delivery and its low profit.