the Change

How Zalando addresses sustainable packaging

How Zalando addresses sustainable packaging

While the rise of online shopping has brought several positive effects when compared to offline retail, such as reducing structural inefficiencies through a more centralized and efficient storage and distribution of inventory, it has also created new challenges, like the inefficient use of packaging material and carbon emissions related to fast, free deliveries and returns. 

As Europe’s leading online platform for fashion and lifestyle, we acknowledge that we are part of the problem. And sustainable fashion e-commerce does not only apply to textiles and accessories, but also to how the articles are packaged for shipment. We started working towards more sustainable packaging with our previous sustainability strategy. Now, we double down on our ambitions with the explicit target to design our packaging to minimize waste and keep materials in use, specifically eliminating single-use plastics by 2023.

The State of Sustainable Packaging at Zalando

Packaging is a complex and challenging topic because, on the one hand, we want to use less material and choose more sustainable options, and on the other hand, we need to make sure that products are not damaged on their way to the customer. 

We are making great efforts to tackle the challenge head-on and are experimenting with new packaging materials and solutions, intending to reduce the volume of packaging we use and switch to more sustainable materials. From talking to our customers, we know that they share our sustainability values. In an online survey from March 2019, 85% of our customers agreed that environmentally-friendly packaging should be a very important dimension of sustainability for Zalando.

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Zalando boxes are produced from 100% recycled cardboard that is held together with an adhesive made from vegetable starch. Thanks to an integrated adhesive closure, 60% of our boxed do not require any extra adhesive tape. The white most outer layer of the boxes is made from recycled paper and has not been printed white. For our branding, we use water-based ink. 
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Shipping Bags
Our mailing bags are now made from 80% post-consumer recycled (PCR) material. PCR’s are derived from an end product, such as a clear water bottle, that has completed its life cycle as a consumer item and would otherwise have been disposed of as a waste product. The shift from virgin to PCR plastic saves up to 40% of CO2 emissions per kilogram and diverts waste from landfills.
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The thin protective sleeves around our textiles are needed to protect items against damage. They are now made from over 60% recycled plastic.
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Beauty Bags
Previously, cosmetic products were packed in a padded plastic bag and put into our Zalando box, as they can be very fragile. We are in the process of converting our beauty bags from plastic to 100% recycled paper or other more sustainable materials.

In 2018, we used more than 34,000 metric tons of packaging materials, 89% of which came from renewable sources. All recent shifts to more sustainable materials will reduce this year’s consumption of non-recycled plastic by about 625 tonnes.

Reuse: Sustainable Packaging 2.0

Unlike single-use packaging, reuse keeps materials out of the waste stream, safeguards their value, extends the life cycle of the original raw material and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. In September 2019, Zalando started piloting reusable packaging for at least 10,000 customers in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They receive their Zalando order in reusable shipping bags by our partner RePack. The RePack bags are made of durable and recycled materials and can be used again and again for shipping and returns. The cycle works by customers folding up the envelope, attaching the return label to it and putting it in any mailbox near them. The bag goes back to a central location and is then brought to the fulfillment center to be used again.

Reducing the Number of Packages With Zalando Fulfillment Solutions


Zalando Fulfillment Solutions (ZFS) is our B2B service to take care of inbound to returns processing for our partners. It gives fashion brands access to our logistics infrastructure and know-how. The clear sustainability benefit within ZFS is the single-parcel experience. ZFS bundles multi-brand orders together in Zalando’s logistics centers, which means one order, one parcel, one delivery. On average, our customers buy fashion from 13 different brands per year in the Fashion Store. As a result, 76% of the items are ordered in multi-brand orders. Without ZFS, customers would regularly receive multiple packages shipped from multiple logistics sites (partner brand sites and ours). Bundling the orders, parcels, and returns reduces the environmental impact of deliveries.