China plans to intensify efforts to promote the green transformation of its burgeoning postal and courier industry by recycling express delivery packaging, as the country accelerates efforts to combat climate change and reduce consumption-related pollution.
China’s State Post Bureau said Thursday that it would standardize operations to reduce packaging materials and better regulate excessive packaging, while pushing companies to use some 10 million recyclable packages by the end of this year. The announcement follows the central government’s launch of a two-year pilot program starting this month to expand the use of recyclable express packaging and related high costs.
China’s thriving e-commerce sector accounts for over 80% of the country’s delivery services, driving the explosive growth of the express delivery sector over recent years. Official data estimated the country’s courier industry delivered some 108.5 billion parcels last year, a 30% increase from 2020.
However, the use of a large amount of delivery packaging — including plastic bags, cardboard boxes, protective material, and tape — have posed a threat to the environment, generating more than 9 million tons of paper waste and about 1.8 million tons of plastic waste every year, according to official estimates. A 2019 report showed that China’s courier packaging was dominated by corrugated boxes and plastic bags, accounting for around three-quarters of the total wrapping used.
As China advances green packaging in the express delivery sector, some of the country’s top logistics and e-commerce giants — including JD Logistics, Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao, and retail giant Suning — have launched green delivery packaging programs in recent years. The use of recyclable packaging, however, remains limited compared with the total amount of delivery orders.
A 2020 survey jointly conducted by two domestic environmental nonprofits found that orders using recyclable boxes account for less than 0.5% of those delivered by both JD Logistics and SF Express. Meanwhile, nearly 70% of the respondents said they had never used recyclable packaging.
“The current regulations mainly fall on courier companies, leaving much room for coordination between e-commerce and express companies,” Zhou Jiangming, project manager of Plastic Free China, which jointly conducted the survey, told Sixth Tone. “Solving environmental problems caused by courier packaging is a systematic work.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Students hand over delivery boxes to a recycling center at a university in Beijing, November 2017. People Visual)