Rethinking Plastic Packaging In E-Commerce: A Path To Sustainable Future

By Hemant Badri June 05, 2023

World Environment Day 2023: We can revolutionise packaging and promote a greener future for everyone by innovating and working together 

Rethinking Plastic Packaging In E-Commerce: A Path To Sustainable Future
While some packaging remains necessary, organisations can adopt greener alternatives to replace traditional plastic fillers. DepositPhotos

When it comes to retail packaging, plastic has long been the dominant force. However, its undeniable environmental toll compels us to seek alternative solutions and embark on a transformative journey toward a greener, more sustainable future. As more organisations take the lead in eliminating plastic from their packaging, especially in the e-commerce industry, they not only set an example for the ecosystem at large, but are also playing a role in guiding the countless sellers within the e-commerce ecosystem toward a plastic-free future.

The business case for sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging is not only a responsible choice for the environment but also a smart business move. As consumers increasingly favor brands that embrace eco-friendly packaging over plastic with the intention to embrace ‘good purpose’, companies need to differentiate their offerings to cater to this shift. Consequently, decoupling from plastic has become a critical endeavor, calling for innovative strategies and solutions.

To minimize the environmental impact, the redesign of packaging, including both its materials and designs, holds immense potential. Streamlining it by eliminating excess layers, materials, and void fillers has proven to be an effective solution, enhancing efficiency and reducing plastic usage.

While some packaging remains necessary, organisations can adopt greener alternatives to replace traditional plastic fillers. Eco-friendly paper shreds can substitute for plastic fillers, and carton waste shredded material or two-ply rolls can replace bubble wrap, providing robust protection for fragile items. Moreover, the adoption of recycled paper bags instead of polythene pouches has gained significant traction across various industries.

E-commerce companies must recognize that their role as sustainability champions extends beyond delivering products. In addition to using paper and paper-based materials in packaging, educating and advocating for proper waste disposal and recycling practices among consumers is very much the need of the hour.

Collaboration for a plastic-free future

Addressing the plastic challenge requires the collective effort of the entire retail ecosystem, both online and offline. By recognizing the business and environmental benefits of using sustainable materials, the retail industry can collaborate to push for widespread adoption of non-plastic alternatives. This collaboration can foster industry-wide research and development initiatives and the sharing of best practices, driving substantial advancements in reducing plastic waste.

Considering the impact of plastic on climate and ecology and the advancements in scientific research, companies must leverage their unique capabilities and sectoral experience to analyze data, monitor trends, and explore innovative packaging solutions. This concerted effort across the business landscape can usher in customer satisfaction, while also meeting the right standards of sustainability.

Transforming the e-commerce landscape

Phasing out plastic from packaging requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach, delivering the benefits of non-plastic packaging to retailers throughout the ecosystem. Continuous innovation is essential to eradicating the ubiquity of plastic and making the use of sustainable alternatives highly desirable. The e-commerce industry is uniquely positioned to drive this transformative change due to its vast scale of operations. By integrating non-plastic materials into the millions of parcels shipped daily, e-commerce companies can popularize sustainable packaging across the industry. Through trial and exploration of new materials, technologies, and designs throughout the supply chain, they have the power to bring about a tipping point where non-plastic packaging becomes the new norm. By proactively minimizing their environmental footprint, e-commerce companies can not only lead the way but also inspire positive change throughout the broader retail industry.

We need to strengthen our commitment to breaking free from plastic materials and ensure that it extends beyond rhetoric. Through collaboration, innovation, and a united effort, we can revolutionize the packaging landscape and foster a greener future for all. By embracing sustainability in deliveries, we not only safeguard our planet but also pave the way for a more responsible and prosperous retail industry.

(The author is Senior Vice President and Group Head of Supply Chain & Customer Experience at Flipkart)