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Industry news: Reusable mailing bags for online sales

Returns Reloaded

How should multi-use systems be designed so that they are practical and economically viable? Mail order companies Tchibo, Otto and Avocadostore aim to use the three-year research project praxPack to answer this question. The first project phase began in August 2020 in partnership with RePack.

August 2020

Shopping without leaving home is becoming increasingly common. Online sales of clothing and footwear totalled almost 19 billion euros for companies in Germany last year – an 11 per cent increase on the previous year[1].  The coronavirus pandemic has further strengthened this trend. But this convenience also has its downsides, including the volume of returns. Looking at online apparel shopping in Germany as a whole, approx. 800,000 packages are returned per day. This generates 400 tonnes of CO2 daily – the equivalent of 255 car journeys from Frankfurt to Peking[2]. “If things continue like this in the retail sector, in four years we will break the one million tonne mark for shipping packaging waste,” warns Lisa Rödig from the Institute for Environmental Strategies Ökopol. In order to minimise the environmental impact of their deliveries, the mail order companies Tchibo, Otto and Avocadostore have been testing reusable mailing bags since August 2020. The three-year praxPack research project is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and coordinated by Ökopol.

How can reusable mailing bags be rolled out in your own logistics? Will they be accepted by customers? Would these be willing to pay a premium for the service? In the first phase, the Finnish startup RePack's system will be put to the test. The RePack reusable mailing bag is made from recycled plastic, can be folded to letter size by the customer and returned by post free of charge. The extended life cycle means CO2 emissions may be reduced by up to 80 per cent. However, in order to make the concept scalable, the entire e-commerce industry must be on board. “We are particularly pleased to be able to pass on our experience to our labels later on and to be able to explicitly support small eco-companies and startups,” says Mimi Sewalski, Managing Director of Avocadostore. Up to the end of the project in early 2022, the aim is to generate comprehensive findings regarding how reusable systems need to be designed so that they are practical and economically viable. Which industry-specific and political framework conditions can support this is another question that must be addressed.

RePack Business Developer Christof Trowitz discussed the future of e-commerce in January 2020 during the panel talk "Returns Reloaded — Cloud Driven Efficiency" on the Fashionssustain platform at Neonyt.

#Sustainability #E-commerce #Online sales #Returns #Shipping #Logistics #RePack #Tchibo #Avocadostore #Otto #Fashionsustain #Neonyt #Germany

Find out more here:

Press release: Teststart mit Mehrwegversandtaschen bei Tchibo, Otto und Avocadostore


[1] Statista (2020) „Umsatz im Online-Modehandel in Deutschland in den Jahren 2006 bis 2019“.

[2] Verbraucherzentrale (2019): „Ist Online-Handel gut für die Umwelt? Es spricht viel dagegen“.

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  • Sustainability

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