The growth of e-commerce in the fashion industry, already the largest e-commerce market segment, is accelerating, spurred on by the closure of brick-and-mortar stores due to the pandemic. As such, the demand for single-use packaging, and waste generation, is increasing. However, reusable options, which aim to transform packaging from single-use to multi-use assets, are being implemented as a sustainable alternative.
The findings published in the white paper, ‘The Rise of Reusable Packaging: Understanding the Impact and Mapping a Path to Scale’, collaboratively authored by Fashion for Good, in partnership with Utrecht University and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition demonstrate the clear impact case for reusable packaging, presenting in some instances, a reduction of more than 80 percent in CO2 emissions, and 87 percent less plastic waste, by weight, compared with a single-use alternative.
Giving context to the current debate around the environmental impact of reusable packaging and providing a quantified impact assessment of reusable versus single-use e-commerce packaging, it also sheds light on the number of variables that can drastically influence impact including; transportation distances, return rates and the types of packaging used.
“Reusable packaging is a key lever in closing the loop on plastics in the fashion industry. We hope the findings in this paper serve to convince the industry that circularity is achievable today and use this as a toolkit to map their path to scaling sustainable solutions,” says Katrin Ley, Fashion for Good.
Single-use packaging requires the extraction of virgin raw materials for their creation and generates vast quantities of waste; an estimated 15 million tonnes in Europe in 2018. Instead of being discarded after reaching the consumer, reusable packaging is returned and re-circulated over many trips. In doing so, they overcome some of the issues of single-use packaging and have the potential to ease the environmental impacts of packaging in e-commerce.
Brands, retailers, innovators, and other stakeholders across the value chain can use the findings from this analysis to make informed decisions - ensuring they implement and scale reusable packaging in an environmentally responsible manner.