I’m sure this photo will look familiar to many an online shopper. The two small cartons were originally in the corrugated case with paper cushioning on the left, which in turn was in the corrugated shipper with paper cushioning on the right. Chalk this up as the latest example of “overpackaging,” although the brand owner may disagree.
Yes, I know that tomes have been written all about the importance and value of packaging to reduce food and product waste and to efficiently transport items across the globe. I have certainly done my part in spreading this mantra over the past three decades, and I will continue to help educate the industry (and lay people) on the benefits of packaging.
But now, I’m getting really concerned about one aspect of packaging, specifically when it comes to online shopping and the looming death of retail. With one US department-store chain after another going belly up (just since the first of the year), it certainly seems plausible that we will be making more and more of our specialty (as well as everyday) purchases online. Be it through Walmart, Amazon or Target, millions of households across America are having these packages dropped at their front doors daily…and with the consequent transport packaging.
Where will we be in five or 10 years? Seriously, if the percentage of retail sales bought online really does double to 17% by 2022, as some studies predict, will we become buried in corrugated containers, EPS peanuts, bubble wrap and/or crumbled-paper cushioning? Especially if brand owners like the one in the photo keep sending stuff out “overpackaged” the way it is?
Last year, online sales drove 90% of all growth for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). And while electronics and apparel are now the largest product categories sold via e-commerce, there are aggressive plans to boost online sales of everyday groceries. The growth in total shipments will eventually surpass the savings in current efficiencies. Then what?
For now, paper-based packaging holds the dominant position in e-commerce, and that’s good. Paper is probably the easiest material to recycle, but online retailers and CPC (consumer product companies) are seeking alternatives because, for one thing, there are far too many poor examples.
At our house, at least, we had to get a second “bin-on-wheels” to handle all the stuff to recycle. And we still sometimes have piles of knocked-down shipping cases from online deliveries put out alongside the bins.
Let me know what you think. How much online shopping is done at your house? How many examples of “overpackaging” for your e-commerce shipments can you personally point to?