The Case for the E-Commerce – Reusable Pack Transformation Builds

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Alibaba Looks to Replace Delivery Boxes with Reusable Bags

The needle continues to inch upward on the Packaging Revolution reusometer. Cainiao, the logistics arm of $476 billion Alibaba, is looking to use reusable packs for domestic home deliveries. According to Plastics News, Alibaba shipped 467 million orders on one day alone, an annual shopping holiday called Singles Day (last November 11). It shipped 7.6 billion packages the following week.

Author Nina Ying Sun noted:

Many of the courier packages delivered in China require the recipient’s presence and signature, which created an opportunity that Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao quickly jumped on. Because the online customer is present when the package is delivered, instead of having the package left on the porch or in a mailbox, it would be possible for the courier to take the content out of the packaging, hand it over to the recipient, and then take the packaging back to the warehouse.

With this in mind, Cainiao is trialing the concept in Shanghai this month, and hoping to expand it to  20 Chinese cities by the end of 2016.

According to the report, it is also testing a biodegradable single-use plastic shipping bag, although it is more expensive than a conventional plastic bag, predictably making the reusable bag a more cost-effective solution on a cost-per-use basis, where it can be successfully implemented.

There remains uncertainty about how the more expensive reusable bags would be subsidized. According to an article in China Daily on the same topic:

“Green package materials undoubtedly increase the costs, and the enormous costs cannot be undertaken by Cainiao alone. We will persuade sellers and partners to undertake the costs together,” said the source in charge of the logistics business in Cainiao.

Since green express boxes can be reused by Cainiao again and again, who will foot the cost of green express bags is a problem that needs urgent solution since currently the online sellers pay the cost of buying and delivering package materials

A reusable packaging system for e-commerce home delivery exists in Finland. Buyers of products pay a deposit at the time of purchase. Empty RePack pouches are dropped in the closest mailbox for return, and the buyer’s deposit is reimbursed upon return to RePack.