Our reporter Zhang Sun Mingshuo and Zhang Jiazhen reported from Shanghai

In 2021, China’s express delivery business volume reached 108.5 billion pieces, and the express delivery industry entered the “100 billion piece era” for the first time. However, with the continuous growth of express delivery business, consumers enjoy the convenience of shopping without leaving home, and the amount of garbage generated by the express delivery industry is also increasing.

Relevant data show that in 2020, the consumption of express packaging materials has exceeded 40 million tons. Among them, paper products can be better recycled, while plastic packaging and so on can hardly be effectively recycled, which is the main source of pollution and waste.

It is understood that as early as December 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission and other departments issued the “Opinions on Accelerating the Green Transformation of Express Packaging”, proposing that by 2022, a unified and standardized and strongly constrained express green packaging standard system will be fully established, the proportion of e-commerce express no longer secondary packaging will reach 85%, the application scale of recyclable express packaging will reach 7 million, and the level of standardization, greening and recycling of express packaging will be significantly improved. By 2025, express packaging will basically achieve green transformation.

How to achieve the green transformation of the express delivery industry urgently needs to be solved. The reporter of “China Business News” learned in the interview that in order to promote the recycling of express packaging, the express recycling box “π-box” launched by SF can be recycled more than 70 times; ZTO Express has also launched a “container return plan”, with a total of more than 24,000 recycling devices invested by the end of 2021.

“Encourage the secondary use of idle packaging, and gradually guide outlets and consumers to improve environmental awareness.” The relevant person in charge of ZTO Express told reporters that after the express packaging is recycled, the outlet will put the reusable waste packaging into use again, and the unusable packaging will be harmless.

Low box reuse

Shanghai citizen Hoopoe (pseudonym) likes to shop online, from earplugs to refrigerators, and has received nearly 100 deliveries in the past year. But how to dispose of express packaging has become a problem that online shoppers, including hoopoes, often face.

According to reports, there is an intelligent recycling machine in the community where Hoopoe lives, which usually flattens the unpacked express box and stores it, and then puts it into the machine at intervals, and the machine will return cash ranging from a few dimes to a few yuan to his account after automatic weighing.

However, according to recycling requirements, delivery bags are explicitly prohibited from being placed in the dry garbage, and Hoopoe can only throw them in dry trash cans. In addition, not every community has smart recycling machines, and after moving, hoopoe can only throw delivery boxes into recyclable bins according to Shanghai’s garbage sorting rules.

“Like the express box used to send eggs in my hometown, there are more than a dozen layers of foam in it, and it is very safe to put the eggs in it, and I wanted to keep it for next time, but because it was troublesome to bring back to my hometown, I lost it in the end.” Hui Sheng told reporters that if you use a special box to send goods, you need to charge a courier fee according to the number of eggs, for example, the courier fee for sending 50 eggs costs 25 yuan. “If the special box can be recycled, it will not only save money, but also be more environmentally friendly.”

Recently, the reporter visited a number of communities in Shanghai and learned that in communities without intelligent recycling machines, express packaging is mainly discarded into recyclable garbage bins or mixed into domestic garbage, collected by garbage cleaners and then sold to the waste recycling station.

Shanghai is the first city in China to enforce a garbage classification system through the National People’s Congress legislation, and the express box can directly enter the recyclable system, but the recycling and reuse of the express box is not satisfactory.

According to data shared by Shanghai CPPCC member An Yiqing at the Shanghai Two Sessions in 2021, in 2020, the volume of express delivery business in Shanghai reached 3.3 billion pieces, the reuse rate of express packaging boxes was less than 20%, and the packaging bags were used almost once.

In An Yiqing’s view, the main reason for the low reuse rate of express boxes is that all kinds of express packaging are not uniform in size, material and quality, and it is inconvenient to reuse; The cost of allowing couriers to recycle packaging for reuse is much higher than the cost of purchasing new packaging in bulk, resulting in express packaging that can only be recycled, and can no longer be used.

An Yiqing suggested that we should learn from successful experience to improve legislation, and standardize the cost and responsibility of packaging material manufacturers, sellers and buyers to jointly bear the costs and responsibilities of recycling and reprocessing, so as to achieve green development. “Express delivery, e-commerce enterprises and the majority of enterprises enhance their sense of social responsibility, and try to reuse and recycle degradable packaging boxes (bags) of standardized specifications.”

Explore packaging recycling paths

The use of circular express boxes and recycling delivery boxes for reuse is an important way to solve the problem of express waste.

The “2020 China Post Express Industry Green Development Report” released by the Development Research Center of the State Post Bureau proposed that promoting the application of recyclable express packaging is an important focus and entry point for promoting the green governance of express packaging, and the application of recyclable packaging has become the main direction of attack.

The reporter also sorted out and found that in the use of circular express boxes, SF, Jingdong, and Yuantong have begun to try. Among them, SF launched the first generation of circular express box “Feng· BOX”, a new generation of circular express box “π-box” was launched in September 2021, and has been piloted in Hangzhou and Shanghai, which can be recycled more than 70 times.

In addition, Jingdong has also launched a recyclable room temperature clear flow box and a recycled fresh incubator. By the end of 2021, it had been recycled about 200 million times.

A person in charge of Jingdong’s Shanghai business point told reporters that Jingdong had previously held a public welfare activity for couriers to collect express boxes, and as a reward, customers could receive corresponding Jingdong beans.

However, it is not practical to collect the delivery box through the door-to-door delivery of the courier. A Jingdong courier who has participated in door-to-door recycling activities told reporters, first, the courier’s daily work is busy, and recycling express boxes will take up delivery time; Second, some customers have their own needs for the use of express boxes, and their willingness to participate in recycling is not strong. “The lack of place to put the recovered delivery box is also a problem.”

In terms of express box recycling, taking ZTO Express, which has the largest market share in the industry, as an example, by the end of 2021, ZTO Express had invested a total of more than 24,000 recycling devices through the “box return plan”.

Specifically, the operation idea of ZTO Express’s “box return plan” is to be formulated by the headquarters and provide a unified purchase channel, which is purchased by the outlets themselves and placed in each terminal store. When customers receive the goods, guide customers to put the express packaging into the recycling box through various forms such as environmental poster publicity or gifts.

It is also understood that by the end of 2021, Cainiao green recycling boxes have covered 315 cities in 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) across the country, and it is expected to recycle hundreds of millions of express cartons every year.

It is necessary to improve the green institutional system

In addition to express packaging boxes, plastic products such as express packaging bags and fillers are another major source of packaging waste in the express industry.

The “Research Report on the Characteristics and Management Status of Express Packaging Waste in China” released by the China Environmental Protection Federation and other institutions pointed out that with the rapid development of the express delivery industry, related environmental protection problems have gradually become prominent. If a large number of express packaging materials eventually become garbage, it will not only cause waste of resources, but also have a greater environmental impact. “In general, the paper and plastic materials consumed by express packaging in China have approached ten million tons and are still growing rapidly, and the economic and environmental costs brought by express packaging cannot be ignored.”

In recent years, the problem of express packaging waste pollution has gradually received attention. In order to promote the green development of the express packaging industry, in 2020, the State Administration for Market Regulation and the State Post Bureau issued the “Rules for the Certification of Green Products for Express Packaging” and the “Green Product Certification Catalogue for Express Packaging (the First Batch)”, and the “Catalogue of Green Product Certification Bodies for Express Packaging”. In 2021, the Ministry of Transport issued the Measures for the Administration of Mail Express Packaging.

Zhou Wenbin, the main person in charge of express packaging green product certification of Shanghai Inger Certification Co., Ltd., told reporters that in contrast, express packaging green product certification has adopted stricter certification standards, which puts forward higher requirements for the internal management level, production equipment, source supply and other whole processes of express packaging enterprises. “At present, there are many large enterprises participating in certification, and it is still difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises to obtain green product certification.”

At the same time, with the landing of China’s express packaging green product certification system, in the absence of sufficient binding force and policy incentives, the high cost of green product use has also brought about the problem of green cost sharing. Zhou Wenbin said that the certification index of green products puts forward higher requirements for raw material procurement, technical control, equipment, personnel quality and other aspects of enterprises, and the corresponding adjustment will inevitably bring about an increase in production costs.

A person from an express packaging enterprise that has obtained the green product certification of express packaging told reporters that environmentally friendly express packaging bags are divided into degradable and fully degradable products, and the price of fully degradable products is at least 3 times that of degradable products. Due to the lack of mandatory regulations in China and the high price of green products, few domestic customers buy such products, and most of the fully degradable products ordered from the company are foreign customers.

“The green product certification of express packaging has just started, and the popularization of use requires a process, and market demand determines the production volume of enterprises.” Zhou Wenbin believes that in the early stage of the application of express packaging green products, the corresponding policy subsidies and incentives and mass promotion and publicity should be paid attention to. Regulatory constraints, policy incentives, and consumer awareness affect the application and popularization of express packaging green products.

It is understood that the “14th Five-Year Plan” for the development of the postal industry jointly issued by the State Post Bureau, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Transport at the end of 2021 sets 12 indicators such as the number of recycled express packaging, and puts forward eight work tasks such as “improving the green system system, promoting the green transformation of packaging, promoting green and low-carbon development, and promoting the green development of the industry”.

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