- I1 in 3 consumers opted for reusable e-commerce packaging for purchases
- 90% of participating retailers found it convenient to implement reusable packaging, which improved their efficiency compared to poly mailers or paper boxes
WWF-Singapore (World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore) has released the results of a pilot program aimed at reducing e-commerce packaging waste in Singapore. During the six-month pilot, out of 15,000 customer orders processed, one in three customers opted to use reusable packaging for their online purchases when given the choice, with over 50% voluntarily returning the packaging. According to the post-pilot survey, consumer education and convenience can increase the return rate to over 75%, promoting a more sustainable e-commerce landscape.
The pilot program was launched in April 2022 and led by WWF-Singapore’s business initiative Plastic ACTion (PACT), in collaboration with UOB, SingPost, and Better Packaging. The objective was to encourage the scalability of reusable e-commerce packaging in Singapore and promote a circular economy.
According to a 2021 study by the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab, Singapore’s e-commerce market is projected to increase by over 50% by 2027. The study also found that packaging accounted for 45% of carbon emissions in the e-commerce supply chain, with returns management being the second biggest contributor at 25%.
1The pilot initiative was conducted between April 2022 to September 2022 across 12 retailers spanning from apparels, personal care, health and wellness, grocery, pet care and secondhand goods.
“The pilot has shown us that consumer demand for more sustainable goods and services is indeed growing,” commented Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer at UOB. “UOB’s recent research also indicates that 51 per cent of consumers would be more inclined to choose sustainable options if there are more made available. This means vast opportunities for businesses to adopt sustainable practices, both for their own growth and to contribute to Singapore’s circular economy. We encourage consumers and companies to make these everyday eco-conscious choices as part of their personal and corporate purpose, and join us in creating positive impact for a sustainable future.”
“SingPost is thrilled to be part of this trial to test the viability of utilising reusable packaging in Singapore,” commented Neo Su Yin, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore, SingPost. “The learnings from this trial are valuable to us as we work progressively towards a circular economy approach in our packaging solution for our customers. We hope to take the lead in sustainability efforts for the logistics sector and also enable more businesses to go green. Reverse logistics has become increasingly common with the growth of eCommerce and sits squarely in our goal to drive a sustainable future for our planet.”
Consumers Willing to Select and Return Reusable Packaging
Operational Concerns Unfounded
No operational concerns were found during the pilot initiative. All retailers were supportive of the reusable packaging concept, and implementing an opt-in function on their e-commerce platform required minimal IT changes. Once employees were informed about the alternative packaging option and its environmental benefits, there was little resistance to operational adoption. In fact, 90% of participating retailers reported that their efficiency of packing goods had either improved or remained unaffected due to the simple “drop and Velcro down” sealing packaging design.
Third-party logistics providers also provided positive feedback, reporting no spoilage or breakage of products during the fulfillment of last-mile deliveries. However, as the concept scales, it will be necessary to review and optimize the suitability of packaging sizes and the compatibility of shipping labels with reusable packaging.
Scaling Singapore’s Reusable E-commerce Packaging Concept in The Future
To scale the reusable packaging concept in Singapore, it is important to address certain considerations, such as closing the consumer knowledge gap and improving return logistics management. Educating consumers and providing clear return instructions will raise awareness of the impact of their decision. Furthermore, increasing the number of drop-off points and leveraging Singapore’s postal network to facilitate returns will optimize return logistics and enhance the convenience of the process, ultimately improving return rates.
The pilot findings emphasized the need for collaborative participation from various stakeholders, including logistics players, e-commerce platforms, retailers, and governmental institutions, to enable the ecosystem to function beyond the pilot initiative. Additionally, consumers have demonstrated their willingness to support the model for the benefit of Singapore’s circular economy, with 75% of consumers willing to contribute through a deposit system or absorbing costs for orders fulfilled in reusable packaging.
Find out more about the findings of the PACT e-commerce packaging pilot initiative here.