Leaders don’t run businesses and trends – you do. Consumers have the power and any change must start with consumer adoption and acceptance of change. – Natasha Abbas, founder of Packoorang, a reusable packaging solution for e-commerce based in Norway.
Packoorang is a platform for reusable packaging for ecommerce and B2B. From packaging products to innovative return systems, Packoorang helps businesses stay ahead of the curve and move to carbon-free, reusable packaging. Financially backed by its own government, the Norwegian startup is quickly establishing itself as a global hub for reusable packaging, across all industries and unique requirements.
While the overall goal is to make significantly reduce single-use packaging, which accounts for nearly one-third of global waste, Packoorang realizes switching to reusable solutions has to make sense financially. This is why the startup’s main focus has been driving down costs in order to offer a solution they refer to as a “no-brainer.” With large retailers and logistics partners already on board, Packoorang is looking to make real change – and Packoorang states that the heroes of their story will be you: the retailers, postal services, 3PL, and transport companies.
We recently interviewed Natasha Abbas, founder of Packoorang. Her responses appear below.
Reusable Packaging News: Why is there a need for a packaging system like Packoorang?
Natasha Abbas: Ecommerce is a booming business, and comes with a huge downside – for the planet. Today, packaging materials are responsible for one-third of all global waste. Small items are shipped globally in rigid, impractical cardboard boxes filled with up 90% plastic/paper fillers and sealed with unnecessary amounts of tape. The system has to change, and switching from single-use to reusable packaging is a sure way to radically decrease our carbon emissions as well as reducing global waste.
RPN: How did Packoorang come into being? What is the story behind the founders and the company’s creation?
NA: It all started with the view from my office window. I was working in recruitment and sales, with a fancy office and a great view. Across the road was an in-store post office, and outside of it was a strategically placed trash can. For the longest time, I never noticed it, but over time I saw a trend: every day, people would exit the post office, head straight to the bin and dispose of large cardboard boxes, tape, and various paper and plastic fillers. Some would try to jump on it to flatten it, with the hope they would be able to squeeze it into the small opening in the trash can. Some would simply leave the whole box on top of the can, and others yet would toss the box on the street – usually within a few yards of the trash can. It almost became entertaining after a while.
The predictability of people wishing to avoid facing the same issue at home, coupled with the intriguing “how will the next person go about their box discarding?” Some even stood there for a while, looking around them as if to see if some authority would pop up to tell them what they were doing was not allowed. Yet, as entertaining as it may have been, it upset me to witness the massive volume of trash generated from just a few packages at just one location – one single trash can. I thought about the tens and hundreds of thousands of trash cans around the city, country … other countries. The heaps of trash produced and quickly disposed of in the blink of an eye. Cliche as it may sound, I thought: There has to be a better way. Better for the planet, surely. Better for the consumers, convenience wise. Perhaps even better for ecommerce. I started noting down ideas and searching for like-minded people. The rest is history … in the making.
RPN: What would be examples of the types of ecommerce merchandise that would be shipped in Packoorang reusable packages?
NA: Our first product is the embodiment of our mission: making solutions that are flexible enough to fit several different use cases and to ensure there is less shipping of air and fillers. It is a pouch similar to an overboard bag, which folds to become almost flat when empty – ensuring an easy and financially feasible bag return. The typical items that would be shipped in these bags range from clothing and shoes to electronics and supplements. Our bags come with integrated padding, reducing the need for the plastic or paper-based fillers commonly used today. They are also water-resistant and come with a double zipper which can be sealed with a zip tie if needed. The only types of items we don’t foresee these bags being used for are highly fragile products. We are currently working on a box with solid sidings for these types of items.
RPN: Can you speak to the sustainability advantages of Packoorang vs expendable packaging?
NA: Our bags are made exclusively from recycled polyester, from plastic bottles or textile waste products which otherwise would have ended up in a landfill, leaking microplastic into nature. The CO2 footprint for producing one bag equals the footprint of a cardboard box of similar size, so already out of the factory, we are on equal terms. Then you have the reusability factor; each time our bags are reused, you save another box from being made, complete with tape, and any fillers used.
On top of this, for each reuse of a Packoorang bag, you save hundreds, or even thousands of miles of sea freight shipping of the equivalent cardboard box, versus a few miles traveled from the customer back to its owner (the retailer) domestically. Lastly, you have the fact that with our bags you ship less air – resulting in more efficient use of cargo space, thus reducing CO2 emissions from retailer to customer.
RPN: How does the system work? What is the financial motivation for packaging return? Is it a packaging deposit, store credit, etc.?
NA: Different return (logistics) partners have different strategies here, in liaison with the retailers they work with. We have come to the conclusion that there isn’t one size fits all when it comes to returns, and we see both negative (customer pays a deposit) and positive (customer receives bonus points or store credit) reinforcement as viable options. The key point regardless of motivation tactics is making returns as convenient as possible for the end-users.
RPN: Do you intend to offer customer-branded packaging solutions to vendors, or do you see a standard range of packages under the Packoorang brand?
NA: We will do co-branding with custom colors.
RPN: How do we accelerate the adoption of reusable packaging in ecommerce? What is required?
NA: We need a good number of return points in order to make empty bag returns sufficiently convenient for the end consumer. We need reverse logistics to drive down prices and CO2 emissions. We need financial incentives from governments who should be jumping on the opportunity to make huge cuts in both CO2 and waste produced from the ever-increasing ecommerce business. And we need retailers who are ready to walk the walk. If we are to stand a chance of reversing climate change, both retailers, consumers, and governments must act fast and with conviction.
RPN: What is your call to action for brands and ecommerce shoppers?
NA: Retailers: Your customers are ready. Consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with the excessive use of large cardboard boxes which not only angers the environmentally conscious but also introduces inconvenience in the otherwise hyper convenient ecommerce industry.
Consumers: Our future is in your hands. Leaders don’t run businesses and trends – you do. Consumers have the power and any change must start with consumer adoption and acceptance of change.
For information, visit www.packoorang.com.