E-commerce increases the consumption of cardboard

52% of users make their online shopping decisions based on the sustainability of the packaging.

This week, several Chinese media outlets, such as China Daily and the South China Morning Post, published statistics on package waste in the country. Data confirm the boom in domestic trade and the online market: last year alone, around 20 billion packages were sent by courier on the European continent, which is 48 percent more than in 2014. In these shipments, 7.5 billion plastic bags, 10 billion cardboard boxes and 17 billions of duct tape. Such a ribbon, they claim, could go around the Earth about 400 times. Furthermore, shipping figures are expected to double by 2020, while packaging and recycling management systems are expected to improve.

The figures from China are always devastating, although the concern and interest in e-commerce and package delivery is not only affecting the Asian market. In the United States, according to a recent publication by the New York Times, the online shopping industry is already worth $350 billion, which is double what it was five years ago. In Spain, according to CNMC data, electronic commerce amounted to about 20 billion euros in 2015, and according to estimates by The Boston Consulting Group, online sales will reach a business volume of 24,700 million euros in 2016, which is more than tripling the figure from 2009 Although with some delay, e-commerce in Spain begins to grow. While in the United States or the United Kingdom, electronic commerce reaches shares of 15 percent of total retail sales, in Spain it is below four, explains the Spanish Association of Pulp, Paper and Cardboard Manufacturers.

And with online shopping on the rise, the outlook for the parcel sector is improving. In the United States of America, 35.4 million boxes were produced in 2014, and in Spain, although it is difficult to follow a clear trend due to the impact of the economic crisis, the data reveal some significant peculiarities. For example, in 2015 global paper consumption remained below pre-crisis levels, although corrugated paper is already at an all-time high from 2006 and coated paper far exceeds that level.

Another fact that favors this higher growth of paper intended for boxes (corrugated and coated board) is its share in the total paper consumption: papers for corrugated board accounted for 38 percent of the total paper consumption in 2000 compared to 45 percent in 2013. year. According to Aspapel data, coated cardboard increased from six percent of total consumption in 2000 to ten percent in 2015.

The last Paper Forum conference, recently held in Madrid, analyzed the role of paper in the digital society. They talked, among other things, about how important packaging is in online sales: the phenomenon of unboxing, which is so successful on YouTube, is just an example of the new horizons brought by the combination of both sectors.

“Nine, a marketing agency specializing in future trends, conducted a qualitative study of 17 FMCG e-commerce companies in Europe and Asia to identify opportunities to improve the packaging used today, concluding that until now due attention has not been paid paid in electronic commerce as a key element in the consumer experience,” Aspapel explains.

Brands are aware that good presentation affects the final user experience and brand valuation, even on an ecological level. A Nielsen study of online consumers states that 52 percent of consumers base their online shopping decisions on packaging sustainability; Millennials are the consumer group that cares most about the sustainability of both products and container packaging. Online sales giant Amazon joined an initiative called Frustration Free Packaging in 2008 with the intention of reducing unnecessary packaging in its shipments and improving customer experience and perception. However, according to what the Daily Mail newspaper reported at the time, in late 2015 social networks were ablaze due to the protests of some customers who photographed packages that had just arrived at their homes wrapped in several useless layers.

Flexible and light

This same week, another online giant, Ebay, announced its first line of recyclable packaging. They decided to create a brand and offer customers 10 sizes of cardboard boxes with their logo for their shipments. Regardless of who the manufacturer is, efforts must be directed at removing excess and maximizing packaging customization. The justification that the material can be recycled does not seem to reduce doubts in view of the “boom” of e-commerce. Although it must be pointed out that in Spain and European countries the recycling rates and the efforts made in the sector give results of up to 80 percent of recycled paper and cardboard. Citizens are also involved in ensuring that the rise of online consumption does not become another uncontrolled source of resource use as they must be aware that recycling involves adding emissions from product and box manufacturing, transport and reuse processes. , which implies a new transport.

Furthermore, the transmission is inefficient in some cases because the current packets reaching the user consist of 40 percent air. Optimizing the volume and weight of what is sent is increasingly important because it determines the cost of transportation. “Eco design is important. “We have to think beyond pretty packaging,” says Carlos Reinoso, CEO of Aspapel.

To achieve this, the industry is working on several lines ranging from natural inks to recyclable labeling. One of them is the production of packaging from a single material, since the plastic that makes up the usual packaging, whether it comes from an electronic store or not, is composed of several layers made of different materials “each of which has its own function, although they make it difficult to recycle”, explains Alex Brasso, a spokesperson for the packaging cluster. Of course, the costs of innovation also need to be factored in. “Using single-material packaging can increase the cost by between 20-30 percent and 150 percent,” he continues.

Another option being worked on is weight and volume reduction. This week, the cluster presented three projects that were realized in cooperation with the organization’s companies. One of them is focused on the recovery of part of the material from plastic packaging, more precisely waste, to obtain new packaging. The project was created by the work of GCR Group, Enplater and EIG.

“Previously, that production waste was sold for revaluation of waste. With this project, it was reintroduced into the process, and mineral fillers or talc were mixed with them to reduce the thickness and thus the amount of raw material used. More specifically, the products are made with 35 percent recycled material and 20 percent less thickness and material, thanks to talc,” explains Sergi Saballs, R&D engineer at Enplater. Another interesting initiative is that of the multinational Puma. Its new Clever little bag packaging eliminates cardboard boxes, which means 65 percent less raw materials, 85,000 fewer tons of paper per year and savings of one million liters of water, 500,000 liters of fuel and 275 tons of plastic.

Finally, there are flexible packages that are more and more common. “In the world of packaging, logistics is a fundamental part. With flexible packaging, not as much air is transferred and less material is used, although the properties are not the same,” explains Brasso.

An international example is Ecoclean. Since the end of 2015, the Swedish company of ecological cleaning products has put its products on sale on Amazon. One of its strong points is the flexibility of the packaging, which reduces weight and allows the transport of more units per truck.

Source: La Razón


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