Driven by digital technologies and changing consumer habits, delivery platforms across online food, grocery, and etail are growing steadily. From a new dress or a secondhand bike to a Margherita pizza or bottle of shampoo, the packaging is a critical element of the success of any delivery. With the sector’s growth, the need for more of it is increasing.
The market role of delivery platforms gives them the unique opportunity to influence upstream (restaurants and vendors) and downstream (customers and users) to systemically tackle the growing packaging waste problem. Building on the market transformational impact of their business model, they have all the levers to improve the entire packaging ecosystem.
The Golden Rules to Scale Sustainable Packaging report by Naspers and Prosus takes a comprehensive look at packaging in the industry and sets out ten golden rules for delivery platforms to increase their use of sustainable packaging and lower their waste footprint. It also identifies the innovative solutions that some companies are developing to tackle the issue of packaging waste and address the barriers to scale sustainability in packaging.
The Golden Rules
1. Reduce packaging through design and logistics: Design is a critical driver of sustainable packaging. Consolidating orders, designing packaging for recyclability and reducing the weight and size of packaging can go a long way in minimising waste and reducing costs.
- Takealot ships specific categories of products, such as air fryers and microwaves, in their original packaging, avoiding using transportation boxes, thereby eliminating the need for double packaging.
2. Remove problematic and unnecessary elements: Eliminating unnecessary and complex parts, such as plastics, harmful coatings and prints, is a priority to achieve an effective circular economy. This could mean an opt-in feature for disposable cutlery, napkins or straws in food delivery. Platforms should also avoid multi-material packaging, which poses significant challenges in collection and recycling.
- Media24 Logistics has replaced unrecyclable plastic void fill with paper void fill and unrecyclable plastic tape with paper tape in its logistics packaging.
3. Reduce virgin material and increase recycled content: With recycling systems worldwide struggling to keep up with the volume of materials to process, companies should prioritise solutions that address the packaging problem at the source by setting virgin material reduction targets and increasing post-consumer recycled content.
- eMAG has been gradually increasing the recycled content of its courier plastic bags from 20% to 50%.
4. Replace petrochemical-based plastics with low-impact and regenerative materials: Choose low-impact materials for packaging and provide them to partners as affordable options to make innovative solutions accessible at a larger scale. As a result, platforms can use their scaling force to make sustainable innovations, and new materials, affordable and mainstream.
- To provide business partners with alternatives to conventional packaging, Delivery Hero has also launched a globally scalable Sustainable Packaging Programme that supplies plant-based and PFA-free solutions to restaurants.
5. Adopt and scale reuse models: Introduce reuse models within the business, such as a deposit-refund system that incentivises customers to return packaging or partner with specialised third-party services that offer functional and convenient return logistics and infrastructure.
- Since 2020, Swiggy has partnered with InfinityBox, a startup offering reusable food containers. InfinityBox manages reverse logistics by offering pick-up services to customers and installing QR-code-activated smart bins for returns. The reusable option is free for the customer, and boxes can be reused between 100 and 200 times.
6. Promote reuse models and sustainable options with partners and consumers: Delivery platforms can steer their partners and consumers to make sustainable choices and offer consumers an easy way to identify and shop for more sustainable options.
- Delivery Hero’s Foodpanda, operating in 12 markets across Asia, has launched a Green Label initiative certifying restaurants on sustainability performance.
7. Calculate your packaging footprint: Packaging footprint assessments are needed to understand the impact of packaging at every stage, from design to disposal. Account for and potentially disclose packaging volumes per country and material type.
- iFood is working with external consultants to assess end-of-life scenarios for various packaging alternatives and analysed options based on climate change, water consumption, accumulated energy demand, waste generation and environmental footprint.
8. Raise awareness to improve recycling and composting: Consumers play an essential role in the effective and sustainable disposal of packaging, but they often lack knowledge or access to dispose of it properly. By including recycling, composting and reuse instructions on the packaging, websites and other communication channels, platforms can increase packaging materials’ reuse, recycling and composting.
- Takealot ensures that all its paper packaging suppliers are FSC certified and registered and promotes recycling instructions on the packaging.
9. Invest in building infrastructure that captures materials and prevents waste: Effective packaging systems require collaboration along the materials’ value chain. Parties should identify the levers to increase the effectiveness of the packaging system and set up projects, fund investments in infrastructure and align on materials, design, processes and ways of working.
- Media 24 Logistics has invested in onsite conveyor systems for sorting and bailing plastics and cardboard boxes at its warehouses to manage all its inbound packaging. As a result, more than 98% of all packaging material is recycled by an external service provider.
10. Create scale through collaboration: Collaboration is critical to solving the systemic and challenging packaging waste problem. Join purpose-driven partnerships to catalyse change.
- Takealot and Media24 have joined the South Africa Plastics Pact, an industry collaboration of packaging producers, users, recyclers, governments and NGOs to tackle plastic packaging waste by creating a circular economy for plastics.
Prosus is a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. Operating and investing globally in markets with long-term growth potential, Prosus builds leading consumer internet companies that empower people and enrich communities.
The group is focused on building meaningful businesses in the online classifieds, food delivery, payments and fintech, and education technology sectors in markets including India and Brazil. Through its ventures team, Prosus invests in areas including health, logistics, blockchain, and social commerce. Prosus actively seeks new opportunities to partner with exceptional entrepreneurs who are using technology to improve people’s everyday lives.
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