Not just product packaging: the conflict between e-commerce and the environment

It’s no secret that e-commerce uses too much product packaging in its operations and has a negative effect on the environment. However, even if there was a marked reduction in the use of superfluous and unnecessary packaging by e-commerce giants like Amazon, the very nature of the industry would still have a huge impact on environmental health.

The different pieces of the supply chain puzzle, from packaging materials to transportation, can each benefit from significant improvements that can reduce long-term environmental impact.

Sustainability, green energy initiatives are essential

Ecommerce tends to generate a huge amount of waste in the way it packages products for shipping. Often, packages will be wrapped in protective packaging inside a cardboard box that is too large for the items, and then potentially surrounded by plastic wrap, more protective wrapping, or even another cardboard box. before shipping labels are affixed and sent to a customer.

While much of the packaging material used can be recycled, excessive packaging puts undue pressure on local recycling programs. Businesses using e-commerce should look to more sustainable packaging that not only has the strength to effectively protect their products and mitigate waste, but also packaging that can be more easily recycled to limit negative effects on business. the environment.

As it exists today, recyclable packaging is limited and still often requires the use of virgin materials in production as opposed to previously recycled materials. One of the biggest offenders is plastic packaging, 40% of which ends up in landfills because the materials used are not 100% recyclable. While innovative solutions such as bio-packaging grown from fungus mycelium offer an alternative, the simple fact is that the majority of businesses that use e-commerce care less about sustainability than their bottom line.

Businesses looking to get into e-commerce that will truly benefit long-term environmental health should not only focus on using lesser quantities of highly recyclable materials, but also go green or renewable energy sources in their production and distribution models such as solar and wind energy or renewable biofuels. In order to bring about real and lasting change, companies must examine all levels of their participation in the world of e-commerce to find ways to reduce their environmental impact.

Focus on the supply chain

While it is, of course, necessary for businesses that depend on e-commerce to be aware of the packaging of the products they use, there are many other factors that contribute to environmental pollution. Companies that reach out to customers by offering free shipping put additional stress on the supply chain by enticing consumers to buy what they want, when they want it. Free shipping even on the smallest items means that overall there will be more trucks on the road moving these products, which ultimately means more greenhouse gases created unnecessarily.

Reducing excessive waste from the delivery process is not just about embracing the use of more efficient and recyclable shipping materials. Companies need to take a close look at their shipping policies and methods throughout their supply chain, identifying areas where improvements can be made. Finding ways to reduce the overall quantity of shipments, either by implementing free shipping on orders above a certain price point or completely forgoing free shipping, is vital to the long-term health of the environment.

The world changes. The idea that sustainability is the key not only to the success of any given business, but also to the earth’s ability to eventually recover from the short-sighted distribution practices that have damaged it over decades, is to more and more widespread. Technological and technical advances in supply chain management make it easier to be a more environmentally conscious business realizing that there is no point in dominating the e-commerce industry if it means sacrificing the health of the environment in the long run.

Noah Street is a freelance journalist based in Boise, ID

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