If you've seen my front porch this week — or my neighbors', for that matter — online shopping has changed the way we consume.
While trying to recover from Black Friday and the ongoing Cyber Week, I worry my recycling bin won't fit all the cardboard boxes from the arriving packages. But I've noticed an increasing trend of retailers switching to “poly mailers.” I like their light weight, which cuts down transportation cost and probably carbon emission. Most of them seem to be sufficiently durable. And they are super compact post-use — i.e. less visible “evidence” of shopping activities.
In China, plastic courier bags have been an even more dominant form of e-commerce shipping.
China's most recent Nov. 11 Singles Day — the world's largest one-day shopping spree that dwarfs Black Friday and Cyber Monday — generated more than 780 million packages, according to estimates by the China Post.
In a recently issued report on courier packaging — the first of its kind in the nation — China Post showed an interesting overall picture. In 2014, the consumer shipping industry used a total of 2 billion woven bags, 5.6 billion plastic bags, 2.1 billion envelop-style mailers, 6.7 billion cardboard boxes, 2.1 billion packaging inserts and 11.4 billion meters of tape.
This year, the number of poly bags is estimated to top 8 billion.
While cardboard boxes mostly manage to enter the recycling stream, the report said, tape, plastic bags and inserts are posing challenges for recycling and proper disposal.
China Post suggested shipping companies consider adopting degradable packaging materials in the future, though the agency acknowledges it's a long way to go.