Lawmakers seek switch to greener deliveries

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - National legislators called on the government to set up a national green packaging standard for the express delivery industry and also to offer incentives to encourage delivery companies to transition to biodegradable packaging materials. 

Many Chinese cities have seen waste pile up and the country’s booming express delivery industry is part of the problem. 

According to recent data from the State Post Bureau, 3.2 billion plastic woven bags, 8.6 billion cardboard boxes and 330 million rolls of adhesive tape were consumed in about 31 billion deliveries in 2016.

The bureau expects that more than 60 billion deliveries will be made this year, up by 20 percent from 2018. The waste generated by the express delivery industry contributed to the 90 percent growth of household waste in some metropolises, it said. 

Waste generated in the industry is on the rise not only because of more deliveries. Over-packaging and fake packages in online shopping also contribute a lot, according to Chai Shanshan, a national legislator who works for an express delivery company in Shanghai. 

Some sellers over-pack their goods as a way to please their customers and get good comments. On some occasions, packaging may amount to half a parcel’s size, Chai said. 

To solicit business, some online sellers also fabricate deals by delivering parcels that contain nothing but packaging to make their trade volume appear higher, he added. 

“Delivery enterprises are not motivated to switch to green packaging because of the high cost of doing that,” Chai said. 

He said many companies choose cheap, nondegradable packaging materials of poor quality as a way to control costs. To prevent such packaging from being broken in transportation, they wrap the parcel with a large amount of adhesive tape. 

Even though the cardboard boxes can be recycled, processing of the boxes results in a large amount of wastewater, posing further environmental challenges, Chai added. 

The cost of shifting to green packaging could be high, said Chen Naike, a national legislator from Zhejiang province. He said the price of cardboard boxes that can be sealed without adhesive tape, as well as environmentally friendly plastic packaging, is 1.5 to two times the cost of common ones. The price of degradable adhesive tape is four times more, he wrote to the National People’s Congress. 

“Turning green costs money because companies have to upgrade all procedures in deliveries, including warehousing and transportation,” he said. 

Both legislators suggested drafting a national standard for green delivery to help address the high waste generation in the industry. 

The government could then set a threshold for market access in the industry to prevent companies from using cheap nondegradable packaging materials. Preferential policies should also be offered to companies that turn to environmentally friendly packaging to promote the transition, Chai said. 

One of the incentives the government could give is to offer tax reduction based on the cost increase. 

“My investigation has found that most companies are willing to turn to green materials if such a tax reduction were to become available,” Chen said. 

He also said government bodies should take the lead in purchasing green packaging materials and green logistics services. 

The industry cannot go green without government support, said Niu Zhijing, head of green action at Cainiao Network, Alibaba’s logistics arm.

“If all of the more than 50 billion current deliveries turned to green packaging, a rough estimate would put the cost increase at over 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion). It’s not affordable for any of the companies,” he said. 

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