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Are you ready to loosen your purse strings on online shopping gala on Nov 11 to avail yourself of the many discounts on offer?
Domestic online shopping platforms have turned Nov 11 into a shopping carnival in China, which has also been attracting an increasing number of buyers from abroad. In 2015 alone, the sales volume on Alibaba, a domestic online shopping platform, reached 91.2 billion yuan ($13.5 billion) within 24 hours on Nov 11. The sales of eight commodities, including watches, nuts and cellphones broke the Guinness record.
But there is downside to the shopping carnival. Most, if not all, of the products sold on the day have to be packaged well and sent through couriers. And the proper disposal of the materials used to package them has become a problem.
According to the State Post Bureau, the number of express deliveries reached almost 100 million on Nov 11 last year, which means about 100 million boxes were needed to pack the parcels.
How many of those boxes were recycled? There is no national data on that, but several media reports last year said the percentage was quite low. In random interviews conducted by Beijing News, several respondents said they "simply threw the boxes away" because they didn't know how to recycle them.
Considering the lack of a garbage sorting system in China, throwing away packaging materials more often than not means disposing of them with kitchen waste, which either rot in refuse landfills for weeks or are thrown into garbage incinerators. That is not only a waste of recyclable materials but also harmful to the environment, because the paper and other materials used to make them are not fit for garbage dumps or incinerators.
How to change this practice?
It would be unfair to blame consumers for the high volume of waste. In one interview after another, people have said they regretted throwing the boxes or packaging materials because they didn't know how to recycle them. Beijing News even quoted a woman as saying that she had more than 20 boxes at home last November and didn't know what to do with them, yet she did not throw them away because she didn't want to "waste" them.
In this regard, courier companies could act as harbingers of change. Such companies always need packaging materials, and by offering incentives to consumers who return them, they will reduce not only waste but also their packaging costs.
This model has a successful example: When a consumer places an order for fresh milk in cities like Beijing, he or she pays a certain amount of money above the price of the milk to the supplier, who pays it back after the consumer returns the glass bottle. The recycling or reuse of glass bottles has become standard practice, which courier companies can learn from.
With Nov 11 just a few days away, this recycling or reuse model could help reduce waste in the country. Since China faces an environmental challenge, we cannot afford to waste hundreds of millions of paper boxes any more.(news from China Daily)