Online Purchase Packaging Survey 2020
Online shopping is the hottest issue in recent years. It brings convenience to our daily life. However, it also brings us loads of packaging waste made by various materials, which may be hard to recycle. An escalating number of shopping online purchase is led by the outbreak of COVID-19. As a result, the packaging materials used are piling up as the same time.
Green Sense conducted a survey regarding the packaging of local online shopping in early April, 102 valid entries were collected. This survey is to study the current online shopping habit of Hong Kong citizens, the amount of packaging materials stemmed from online shopping, and post-consumption action taken. The findings may be able to let us rethink the waste problem led by online shopping, and urge the logistics company and online shops to reduce the packaging or use recyclable packaging materials instead.
1. Over-packaging problem is severe
Over half of the respondents (51%) share the same view that the situation of merchandises being over-packaged is severe. Summing up 656 items submitted, the average packing materials used was 2.18. It is common that one goods is wrapped by more than one packaging materials. The worst case was 12.67 units of packaging materials used for a single item.
2. Merchandises are wrapped in mixed packaging materials which is hard to recycle
Single online purchase could create up to 7 types of packaging materials including air bag, carton box, plastic bag, adhesive tape, bubble bag, cardboard and wrapping paper. Over half of the respondents mentioned single online purchase could receive at least have 4 types of packaging materials. Distinguishing recyclable materials would not be easy for citizens when an array of different packaging materials came at once. Given that adhesive tape is not recyclable, it is importance to separate tape from other materials beforehand. However, tapes are widely used in amount, that worsening waste separation and recycling.
3. Consumers willing to recycle face real-life obstacles
Notwithstanding most of the respondents are willing to recycle and reuse the packaging materials, the majority expressed their difficulties in recycling. Apart from the above mentioned reason, having too many kinds of packaging materials, they did not know where the packaging materials can be recycled. Government has long been focus on educating” three types of waste paper and two types of waste plastic containers” (Three types of waste paper covers newspapers, office papers, paperboard and two types of waste plastic containers include beverages or personal care products), Only the above waste plastic should be put into the waste separation bins.
However, packaging materials are not limited to the two types of waste plastic containers mentioned, other types of waste plastics can also be recyclable. For example, the inflatable air cushion plastic bag can be plastic code #2 or 4; bubble bags was found labelling #4, plastic bag can be made of plastic #2, 4 or 5; polyfoam wrappings are often found as #4 or 6. It is inconvenient for citizens to visit “Green Community Station”, usually remotely located, to recycle the above materials. The lack of waste recycling points does lower the recycling rate.
4. Respondents seek more environmental-friendly measures from online shops
The survey listed various environmental-friendly options in order to inquire environmental-friendly measures consumers are looking for (Question 9). About 90% of respondents hoped online shops to reduce unnecessary packaging, nearly 80% of the respondents opted that online shops should take the responsibility in reusing and making use of single or reusable packaging materials. Over 60% of the respondents accepted online platforms make good use of pre-owned or other brands packaging materials with a view to serving the purpose of reuse. Generally customers awaited online shops to implement more environmental-friendly measures. In which online shops and related platforms have to work in coordination with guidelines to cut down on the packaging.
Conclusion and Suggestions
Online shopping not only brings us convenience but also burdens the environment. It is important for both consumers and service providers (online shopping platforms and logistics companies) to rethink their needs and bear the responsibility to the packaging of products. In Europe, regions have implemented a responsibility system for producers of packaging materials. Producers need to share the responsibility of reusing, recycling and disposal of waste products. Hong Kong may catch up with the international pace by prompting producers to invest more resources in logistics, transportation and recycling facilities, waste reduction can be more effective. To conclude, protecting the environment requires the joint efforts of consumers, enterprises and the government, all of them are indispensable.
Green Sense understand the increase in packaging is to avoid product damage during transportation In fact, there are other more environmentally friendly packaging methods in foreign countries or even locally. Therefore, in order to alleviate the problem of over-packaging, we recommend the following practices:
Online shopping platforms and logistics companies
- Use recyclable, single or reusable packaging materials, such as using environmentally friendly cartons, introducing honeycomb buffer material to replace bubble wrap, etc.
- Provide environmental protection options, such as choosing recycled cardboard boxes, or refusing Styrofoam. In Finland, some companies allow customers to select the packaging method by themselves, and they can return free reusable packaging.
- Provide recycling stations for customers in returning reusable packaging materials, like store pick-up points, customers can receive coupons after recycling. “Store pick-up for zero packaging” should be promoted to eliminate additional packaging.
- Use packaging materials that fits the product size to avoid extra filling materials.
- Use of circulating bags or boxes for transportation to achieve “Zero Packaging”.
- Follow the practices of other countries, such as the “Guidelines for Online Shopping Packaging Reduction” signed by Taiwan. Cooperating with online shopping platforms and the logistics industry is to reduce packaging at source and to promote green online shopping.
- Implement the packaging material Producer Responsibility Scheme, requiring online shopping platforms and logistics companies to bear responsibility for reusing, recycling, and disposal of wastes.
- Invent reusable delivery packaging, for example recycling bag and box by innovative technology, to replace single-use packaging.
- Put more effort on publicity about eco-friendly shopping online, by providing more recycling facilities and measures to facilitate clean recycling of packaging materials.
- Provide more subsidies for the recycling industry, in order to increase the capacity of local treatment and recycling.
- Think twice before shopping online. Consider whether the item is a “Want” or “Need” to avoid excessive consumption.
- Prioritize online stores with environmental friendly measures so as to urge more online stores to reduce disposable packaging by the power of consumers.
- State or opt for less packaging to refuse unnecessary packaging.
- Sort packaging at home, “Reuse, recycle, avoid disposal” to reduce the load of landfill.
Green Sense’s follow-ups
- Communicate with online shopping platforms to discuss ways to reduce packaging in all levels.
- Set up “ Green Online Store” charter and invite online shopping platforms to join.
- Reflect the results and opinions to the Environment Bureau and request the establishment of “Guidelines for Online Packaging Reduction”.
- Advise the government to implement the Producer Responsibility Scheme for packaging material.
- Integrate and publish guidelines for citizens on packaging sorting and recycling.
The full report and charts can be viewed here:
1 European Commission – DG Environment (2014). Development of Guidance on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/target_review/Guidance%20on%20EPR%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf
2 Skrabania. (2018). Interview: RePack’s Circular Packaging Solution for Online Retailers and Their Customers. https://en.reset.org/blog/interview-repacks-circular-packaging-solution-online-retailers-and-their-customers-11192018
3 (Chinese Only)《網購包裝減量指引摘要》。取自