Reduce packaging, make deliveries greener

By Xin Laizhe
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, April 6, 2016
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Excessive packaging for products dispatched through courier agencies to meet online shoppers' demand is generating increasing amounts of trash.

The rapid growth of online shopping and express delivery services has given rise to huge amounts of rubbish in China, says a recent report. Last year alone, 16.95 billion meters of adhesive tape and 9.9 billion boxes were used to deliver the purchases of online shoppers.

The contradiction in economic development, which online shopping helps boost, and waste creation and thus environmental degradation could not be more self-evident. And as China Post data show, the problem will only grow as the 48 percent year-on-year of delivery services in 2015 suggests.

Experts say excessive packaging for products dispatched through courier agencies to meet online shoppers' demand is generating increasing amounts of trash and the existing recycling system cannot cope with them. Many would argue that, if the waste cannot be recycled, why not dump them in landfills or consign them to incinerators?

But before reaching a conclusion, let us check out some facts. Zhu Lei, a Qingdao-based scholar affiliated to Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication, says that apart from the 9.9 billion packing boxes and 16.95 billion meters of adhesive tape, 2.96 billion woven bags, 8.26 billion plastic bags and 2.97 billion buffers or bubble wraps were also used by express delivery businesses in 2015. Since these waste products were in addition to the millions of tons of garbage that people generated in their usual daily routine, the magnitude of the problem should not be lost on anyone.

Disposing of this astronomical amount of waste, therefore, is easier said than done. The landfills in China are already overflowing with waste. Because a disproportionate percentage of this waste is generated by cities, landfills are required to be near urban settlements where land comes at a premium. Incinerators have their own problems. For one, there are not enough incinerators to dispose of the current flow of garbage. For another, installation of new incinerators is being opposed by residential communities in many places in China.

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