Zalando Tests Reusable Packaging for Delivery

Zalando SE RePack Useable Packaging

Carbon dioxide and waste could be significantly reduced by the principle of reuse

Zalando is now launching a four-week pilot to test reusable packaging for the delivery of customer orders with RePack, an enterprise that gained traction following a successful stint in Fashion for Good's accelerator program. 10,000 customers in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark will receive their Zalando orders in reusable shipping bags. This reduces packaging waste by using the same packaging repeatedly for shipping and returns.

Reusable packaging is a fresh concept for e-commerce, but could quickly become the new standard for shipping, as two environmental problems are being tackled at the same time: carbon dioxide emissions and waste. Unlike disposable packaging, reuse keeps materials out of the waste stream and extends the life cycle of the original raw material. By eliminating waste and reducing the production of packaging, carbon dioxide emissions are potentially reduced by up to 80 percent. In a first pilot project, the extent to which reusable packaging can be integrated into existing logistics processes will be tested.

The special packaging is a change for Zalando customers. On the one hand, the unpacking experience is different from that of the classic package, on the other hand, a more intensive engagement with the packaging is required. In order to be able to reuse the packaging, it has to be added to the cycle again. This means that even if Zalando customers do not want to return anything, the packaging must be returned. However, an international consumer survey with 4,000 participants from spring 2019, shows that there is a willingness to do this; 83 percent of Germans and 67 percent of Finnish participants are trying to reduce the quantities of plastic in their daily life. The use of reusable packaging could contribute to this.

Zalando SE RePack cycle diagram

Uwe Streiber, Team Warehouse Consumables at Zalando, sees the challenge in the isolated solution approaches: "To make the concept of reusable packaging scalable, the entire e-commerce industry is needed. It requires standardized processes and centralized delivery options for reusable packaging. Reusable packaging transforms material from waste to resource. A uniform system in which customers can return the packaging, for example to the supermarket, would make it easier for everyone."

We are testing a shipping bag from the Finnish startup, RePack, which is comparable to the existing Zalando envelopes. The reusable packaging is shipped from the Zalando logistics centre near Stockholm.

The cycle works by customers folding up the envelope, attaching the return label to it and putting it in the mailbox.The bag goes back to a central location and is then brought to the fulfillment center.

In May, Zalando announced innovations in the field of sustainable packaging. In addition to existing approaches, such as the use of Zalando boxes made from 100% recycled paper and mailing bags made from 80% post-consumer recycled (PCR) material, beauty bags were recently converted from plastic to 100% recycled paper. At the same time, the polybags (thin protective sleeves around the textiles) made from over 60 percent recycled plastic were introduced. These changes reduce the consumption of non-recycled plastic by approximately 625.6 tonnes compared to 2018.

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