For 53-year-old Beijinger Du Bing, the weeks following the Nov 11 shopping gala have been a happy time, not for receiving packages, but for recycling parcel boxes and wrapping materials.
"Many people just threw them in the garbage bins in the community and I could easily recycle about 10 kilograms a day. Most of the time, I would take them to a Cainiao recycling center for some trade-ins. When I found trash dealers around the community, I would sell them directly," Du said.
While the Nov 11 event always generates a bonanza of online shopping, this year, the gala was greener as e-commerce giants and logistics companies are joining the low-carbon campaign to reduce packaging waste under China's green commitment.
According to the State Post Bureau, a total of 4.78 billion parcels for delivery were processed across the country from Nov 1 to 11, up over 20 percent year-on-year, creating a large amount of packaging waste.
Instead of hauling it to landfills for burial or burning, companies in various fields are finding ways to promote a reduction in wrapping materials, use recyclable packaging supplies and encouraging consumers to actively participate in the recycling of parcel boxes.
Starting from Nov 1, about 60,000 courier stations under Alibaba's logistics arm Cainiao Network distributed 7.5 million eggs across the country to encourage package receivers to actively participate in packaging waste recycling.
"Each time I put a parcel box into a recycling counter, I got a virtual egg on a mobile app. After collecting four, the platform would send me real ones to my apartment for free. It's a very good offer because not only the problem of package waste is solved, there are also real benefits provided for the participants," Du said.
E-commerce company JD called for a reduction in wrapping materials for items sold on the platform during the shopping fest. The firm encouraged the use of recyclable materials for packaging.
JD said each package sent out from the platform could save about 210 grams of paper materials and 11 grams of single-use plastics.
Chinese logistics giant ZTO Express also stepped up efforts in the low-carbon campaign. Since 2020, the company has set up 21,000 recycling facilities at its courier stations across the country. This year, it sent out over 11 million recyclable bags to replace about 1.16 billion woven bags for environmental purposes.
STO Express, also a courier firm, set up package box recycling centers in the country where consumers can trade in used package boxes in exchange for free delivery.
"Companies' moves to promote use of reusable materials in packaging, reduction in wrapping materials, and encourage recycling of parcel boxes are meaningful for the green transformation of the delivery industry," said Zheng Xue, executive director of Plastic Free China, a Guangzhou-based environmental protection organization.
Although parcel packaging waste does not account for a high proportion of total domestic waste, it is growing rapidly, said logistics information service platform Kuaidi100.In large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the increase in parcel packaging waste has accounted for 93 percent of the total increase in household waste, the platform said.
A report by Zero Power Intelligence Group, an industrial research institute, said recycling a parcel box can reduce an average of 37 grams in carbon emissions.
Zheng said involving package receivers to actively participate in recycling packaging materials is helpful as it will help in garbage classification and have less recyclable materials ending up in landfills.
Zheng also called for promotion of reusable packaging boxes, as they are mainly made of durable plastics and can be used multiple times. However, she said it may take a long time to adopt because the move may raise costs.
Currently, companies like JD and Suning are using the boxes for product delivery in some areas. Data from PFC showed that as of June 2018, nearly 50 million reusable packaging boxes have been used by JD.
"Promoting use of reusable packaging boxes can also reduce the amount of regular plastic wrapping materials such as single-use bags, tape and filling, which may take hundreds of years to be degraded in landfills and will cause irreversible damage to the environment if handled improperly," Zheng said.