How Green is your Parcel Shipment?
Receiving shipments within two days is now a Societal norm. Since Amazon promised two-day shipping in certain parts of the United States, all it takes is a few clicks on your smartphone or computer and that new dress or phone charger is on its way to your house.
Online shopping makes customer’s lives convenient. However, there is one caveat to faster shipping, and that is the cost to the environment. Carbon emissions continue to rise with the increase in parcel shipments, while the United States has yet to come up with an affirmative action to minimize carbon emissions.
On the other hand, the United Kingdom has customized mail-delivery vehicles to operate via pedal power and batteries. The battery used in the delivery vehicles is charged via solar panels, keeping the vehicle sustainable.
Currently, 100 electric vehicles are on the UK streets with plans to expand their sustainable fleet in the near future.
Obtaining Sustainability through Packaging and Delivery
Amazon has received negative reviews from the recycling industry in recent weeks, due to their switch from cardboard boxes to plastic shipping containers. In response to this, Amazon created an option for Prime members to choose a specific weekday for all of their shipments to be delivered, reducing packaging waste in the process.
Amazon has begun developing Artificial Intelligence to equip delivery vehicles with sensors that collect data. The data will record real-time fuel consumption, allowing delivery companies to adapt and manage their fleets in a more sustainable manner.
“If Amazon committed to using 100 percent recycled content in all of its containers, it would be a material benefit for local governments and our private sector partners,” says David Biderman, CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America. If Amazon moves towards a more Earth-friendly shipping model with 100 percent recycled content, other companies might follow suit.
The Price of Online Shipping
Last year alone, the online retail channel grew by 16% – totaling 165 billion packages being shipped in the U.S. last year. The cardboard used in those packages equates to 1 billion trees. A considerable amount of customers have complained about receiving packages that are ridiculously large for the item they are shipping (see DIM weight). This happens when the retailer wants to assure that the goods arrive in perfect condition.
But it is not all doom and gloom – Walmart has created a “Sustainable Packaging Playbook” while Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba and L’Oreal are partnering on green “packaging”.
Online retail is only growing. Amazon sold 100 million products on Prime Day and shipped 5 billion items last year. Reducing packaging waste needs to be a key objective for retailers in the next few years. See these links from The World Counts to fully understand the impact our waste has on our planet.