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在线翻译:
szdaily -> In depth
Thinking Green amidst red-hot shopping spree
    2017-November-7  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

WHILE online marketplaces in China are busy preparing for the upcoming shopping bonanza, including amping up for promises of faster delivery to woo buyers, the government has started working on addressing the aftermath of online sales — the hundreds of millions of tons of packaging waste generated across the country as the result of nationwide buying frenzies each year.

The State Post Bureau (SPB) last week announced specific goals towards a more verdant courier sector.

By 2020, half of external packaging should be degradable, 90 percent of bills electronic, and packing material required for each parcel cut by 10 percent, the SPB said in a document. Tape and woven bags should be gradually replaced with eco-friendly alternatives.

“Given the rapidly growing express delivery industry, the impact of packaging waste on the environment cannot be ignored,” the SPB said while stating a courier package regulation system will be put in place.

The move came amid looming Singles Day sales, seen by many as China’s version of Black Friday. Falling on Nov. 11, the newly created online shopping festival was popularized by Alibaba, the world’s largest retail platform.

The SPB predicted the shopping spree will boost the number of packages handled between Nov. 11 and 16 to 1.5 billion, up 35 percent from the same period a year ago. The daily volume could hit 340 million, three times the usual level.

Despite implementing measures to curb delivery delays such as hiring more couriers and deploying smart warehouses, shippers still face the challenge of ensuring on-time delivery. Still, the detriment posed by the spike in sales towards the environment is much more serious an issue.

Packages mainly made of paper and plastics have resulted in more consumption of wood and crude oil, according to Yang Jun, deputy secretary general of the China Express Association.

Producing a ton of paper boxes takes 17 10-year-old trees, and three tons of oil is required for a ton of plastic bags, data showed.

The recycling of packaging waste is another problem. “Currently, there are no effective systems for garbage sorting and recycling,” said Zeng Xianlai from Tsinghua University.

Packaging materials such as tape, cushions and plastic bags are usually sent to landfills, and the main component of such materials, polyvinyl chloride, may take hundreds of years to degrade. Burning these materials also generates pollutants.

Analysts estimated China saw 6 million tons of packaging waste generated last year alone and the disposal costs will total more than 9 billion yuan (US$1.36 billion).

Less than 10 percent of packaging materials are recycled, Zeng said.

“China should accelerate the transformation to green practices in the courier sector,” Yang said, adding that everyone at all levels — express delivery companies, online stores and consumers — should be involved.

Major e-commerce businesses have already taken action towards easing environmental concerns.

Suning.com’s president Hou Enlong said the online platform will use plastic express boxes that can be folded and recycled to replace cardboard ones.

The company first tried nonfolding boxes half a year ago, saving 6.5 million cardboard boxes since then. Hou plans to increase the total number of nonfolding plastic boxes to 200,000 from the current 50,000 for the delivery of consumer electronics, mother and baby products, and fast-moving consumer goods in 2018.

JD.com and Alibaba’s delivery unit Cainiao.com have also carried out similar programs that feature biodegradable materials and less packaging.

But inconvenience in delivery and recycling have to some extent curbed the promotion of a more eco-friendly packaging system as disposable packaging appears to be more favored by consumers for certain purposes, such as when purchasing fresh products.

Cainiao.com’s vice president Shi Miao said online stores could consider giving extra membership points to motivate consumers to choose green packaging.

“As a part of our public welfare program, our clients can exchange their points for planting a tree in Northwest China’s deserts,” he said.

Thanks to the incentive, Cainiao.com’s green packages have been chosen over nonbiodegradable options 5 million times this year, Shi said.

Analysts said steering towards green packaging is going to be a long-term effort for the courier sector and it will still be some time before a complete transformation is achieved. (Xinhua)

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