Rethinking the role of reusable packaging in e-commerce: Pioneers like Zalando are in demand.

Source: Zalando SE

Rethinking the role of reusable packaging in e-commerce:

Pioneers like Zalando are in demand.

Thomas Reiner | 21.10.2019

The dark side of the dynamically growing mail-order business is revealed when looking into the overflowing paper and waste bins. Nice if these masses of waste are easy to recycle. However, we must rethink the circular economy altogether because reusable packaging can remain directly in the cycle. Reusable packaging reduces the volume of packaging and avoids new production, as well as the associated ecological burdens. Zalando gives it a try.

Pilot project
The company is launching a four-week pilot project. 10,000 customers in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark are to receive their goods in reusable packaging.

Benefits of reusable packaging
Reusable packaging kills two birds with one stone: it reduces the basic packaging volume and thus the amount of waste that has to be recycled. In addition, it extends the lifetime of the materials used. This also reduces the need for new production, which brings great environmental benefits. According to Zalando’s calculation, for example, it equates to a CO2 reduction of up to 80 percent.

Challenges
1.) The conversion to reusable packaging requires the cooperation of the consumers. These must now return the packaging, even if they do not intend to make returns. Zalando explored in advance whether this could work through a customer survey. It will be interesting to see how big the usual gap between expression of will and actual action on the part of the consumer will be.
2.) For reusable packaging to work in practice, the concept needs to be scalable. This requires the participation of the entire e-commerce industry. Only standardized processes and centralized return facilities will ultimately help the concept to achieve a breakthrough.

Conclusion
Consumers want solutions, not tasks. Zalando has therefore correctly recognized that a unified system is needed for a real breakthrough in reusable packaging. An example of this is the deposit system, which allows consumers to return their returnable bottles to any supermarket, regardless of the place of purchase.

Until then, we still have a long way to go. It’s even more important that not everyone is waiting for the first step of the other. Zalando is proceeding boldly with its pilot project. The increasingly sensitive consumers in environmental and sustainability issues will appreciate this.

There is always room and possibility for meaningful steps. Be it in the direction of sustainability or digital transformation. Essential for that is the conviction to really want to tackle it. And a partner who makes your cause his own.

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