China Aims to Tackle Plastic Delivery Packaging

By Ryan Gandolfo, February 20, 2019

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China’s affinity for express delivery is by no means a secret.

The country’s package delivery industry burned through roughly 17.9 billion plastic bags and 8.6 billion cardboard boxes back in 2016, according to China Daily.


As if that wasn’t enough, the amount of waste has likely increased over the last couple years as the number of deliveries in the PRC is expected to reach 60 billion in 2019 (nearly double the total in 2017).

chart-1.jpgStatistics compiled from State Post Bureau Data

Fortunately, help appears to be on the way, with new environmentally-friendly guidelines published by the State Post Bureau back in December. The guidelines, referred to as ‘Express Delivery Industry Green Packaging Guide (Trial),’ contain several clauses aimed at tackling excessive plastic waste in the PRC.

Among the calls for change are the increased use of reusable bags and boxes (up to 20 uses), avoidance of single-use packaging, and the establishment of recycling containers for used packaging.

Other parts of the guide focused on not overusing resources such as bubble wrap and other package padding, even coining a phrase that translates to “Once it’s full, it’s good to go.”

While the guidelines are a promising start to a major issue that needs to be addressed in China’s consumer-happy market, much of the vernacular within the guidelines appears to lack urgency, with no consequences when failing to comply.

On a positive note, some companies in the express delivery industry have spearheaded their own initiatives to combat waste.

Cainiao, the logistics arm of Alibaba, and 32 other logistics companies formed the Green Alliance in 2016, which launched a ‘Green Action Campaign,’ pledging that half of their shipping materials will be replaced with environmentally-friendly materials and 100 percent of padding (think bubble wrap and packing peanuts) will be biodegradable by 2020.

Image via @芹芹9966/Weibo

Other companies have taken a more consumer-centric approach. In October 2018, launched a free service where their customers could choose to recycle their order’s packaging by selecting the ‘green box’ option on their ecommerce platform (only for small and medium-sized parcels). The company “expects to reduce the number of boxes used throughout the supply chain by 10 billion by 2020,” according to a post on’s corporate blog.

But even with these initiatives and alliances, it remains to be see how ‘green’ these companies can go.

[Cover image via Weibo]

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