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  • Green e-commerce through sustainable packaging


Green e-commerce through sustainable packaging

How-to: Sustainable packaging in e-commerce

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Sustainability as a matter of course

Customers react sensitively when it comes to the issue of sustainability. They expect - and rightly so! - that companies act responsable and ecologically. This naturally includes eco-friendly delivery when they order products online. For you, as an online retailer, the easiest and most effective way to deliver sustainably is environmentally friendly packaging.

Optimize your logistics and shipping process! Try out our Optimizer 4.0


Reliable sustainability is important

I'm sure you’ve heard the term "greenwashing" before. A quick reminder: it means that companies can use marketing and PR to create an ecological image for themselves - but without taking effective measures for sustainability. A deceptive package, then.

It is not easy for consumers to assess the real sustainability of a company. What is true? What is fake? Therefore: If you want to have a  truly sustainable online shop, you need not only appropriate products, but also environmentally friendly delivery and packaging. Because: Eco-friendly packaging conquers the markets!


What does sustainable delivery mean?

Discover our white paper for practical tips and tricks for environmentally conscious shipping. We show you the impact of your packaging on sustainability and how you can implement sustainable logistics with our measures. Be part of the sustainability movement and get our whitepaper for a greener future now!

Discover our white paper for environmentally conscious shipping. Download it now!


When customers say they value sustainable delivery, they also mean green packaging. For example, in a survey conducted by Nosto in 2019, 75% of those who ordered fashion items said they wanted less packaging - and above all, more eco-friendly packaging.

Of course, this statement does not only concern the fashion industry. According to the IPC Cross Border E-Commerce Shopper Survey, 47% of all customers want recyclable packaging.


What is sustainable packaging in concrete terms?

So far, so good: We now know that customers in e-commerce want sustainable packaging. But which ones are there? What are they suitable for? Read on: We bring light into the dark.

Methods for sustainable packaging

There are several ways in which you can make the packaging process more environmentally friendly. This is where the three Zero-Waste keywords come into play: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

  • Reduce: Reduction of packaging material
  • Reuse: Reuse of the packaging
  • Recycle: Recyclability of packaging

Point 1: Reduce - because reducing is the most effective way 

Obviously: If you don’t use it you don’t need to recycle it.  . That is why reducing packaging material is the 1-A solution.

If you optimally adapt the outer packaging to your shipment, you can save and reduce inner packaging material like filling material. 

Customers are annoyed when they receive the ordered products in an oversized package. They compare the ratio of product size to package size and immediately realisethat unnecessary raw material has been wasted. This reflects poorly on your company and your customers fear that you are greenwashing.

Customers hate it when they have to throw away tons of packaging. In addition to the idea of not being  sustainable, they have an additional effortand, if the packaging cannot be recycled, even additional costs.

  • Pro tip:
    Reduce the packaging material to the bare essential and show your customers that you care about the environment.

If you reduce the packaging size, you also win. Because smaller packages weigh less, which reduces the shipping costs.

Save fuel and money when shipping small goods.

Still having some questions? Let's answer them!

Point 2: Reuse - because it is effective

To give a product a second life, we know from our private life. Makes you feel good, doesn't it? That also applies to packaging! There are different ways of reusing packaging throughout the value chain.

Let's start right at the beginning of the value chain. The goods you receive from your supplier are delivered already packed. The packaging is first removed and thrown away. 

Consider whether you could still use the packaging for further shipping. Of course you have to take a good look at the packaging: Is it still intact? Does it still protect the product sufficiently? Depending on the packaging material, reusingmay or may not be possible.


Do it yourself: produce filling material yourself

Do you know the package padding machine? We will explain briefly what it is.

You can make Filling material from old boxes with a package padding machine - both padded mats and flat ones. 

A package padding machine is great for online shops! Because the amount of filling material can be quickly adjusted to demand.

At first glance, the high procurement costs of the machine may seem somewhat daunting. But if you can produce the padding material yourself, in the long run you can save money.


Other exciting possibilities

Another innovative way to reuse the packaging material is to use Karopack padded cushions.

There are also companies that offer reusable outer packaging for e-commerce. One example is RePack. This is how it works: the goods are delivered to the customer in the reusable packaging. Then the customer returns them empty by post.

  • Pro tip:
    It’s not immediately obvious to your customers, if you’re focusing on recycling your packaging materials. Therefore you should definitely promote your commitment. True to the principle: Do good and talk about it!



Point 3: Recycle - because it works without plastic

We all know what plastic does to our oceans and its creatures and at the end of the food chain to us human beings. Therefore society is extremely sensitive to plastic.

Most customers turn up their noses at plastic packaging material.

But: There are alternatives! We will now show you which are the most common packaging materials and how to replace them with more environmentally friendly materials. We distinguish between inner and outer packaging.

Environmentally friendly inner packaging

As we have shown above, the size of the outer packaging is key so that you do not need unnecessary filling material. Because filling material goes usually directly into the waste bin. 

But it is almost impossible to do it without padding material. Here we show you frequently used filling material for inner packaging and eco-friendly alternatives. Ready? Go!

Polystyrene chips

Polystyrene chips are used to fill cavities and are used to absorb shocks. However, the products must also be wrapped in plastic bags or bubble wrap to prevent the chips from damaging the goods. 

Polystyrene chips are made of plastic. Therefore they are only conditionally suitable for greenpackaging in sustainable e-commerce. In theory, these chips can be recycled. However customers are not aware of this and also many recycling stations do not even accept them.

Many customers also regard polystyrene chips as an environmentally unfriendlyand superfluous packaging material. This does not reflect perfectly well on your company.

But there are more green alternatives: filling material made from corn, potato or wheat starch. These fulfil exactly the same purpose, but are 100% biodegradable.energy_saving_thanks_to_sustainable_resources

The Bavarian Institute for Applied Environmental Research and Technology in Augsburg and the ifeu Institute in Heidelberg have compared the life cycle assessment of the two materials and concluded that biological packaging flakes are preferable to polystyrene chips - if they are not reused.

  • Pro tip:
    The protective plastic bags can be replaced by environmentally friendly paper shipping bags.

Wood Wool

This climate-friendly packaging material has only advantages:

  • It is 100% biodegradable.
  • It can be easily processed.
  • It's cheap.

Air cushion pads - the non-sustainable solution

Air cushion pads are also used to fill cavities. They provide particularly good protection against impacts. Air cushions are often made of plastic, but they are also available in recyclable materials such as HDPE film.

The positive aspect of the air cushion cushion is certainly its lightness: it consists of 99% air. This saves weight and thus transport costs. Moreover, the actual waste is extremely low.

The problem: customers do not perceive air cushions as environmentally friendly packaging. Therefore use recyclable material and promote that it is ecological - and how it can be recycled. 

Crumpled paper/newsprint

An alternative recyclable filling material is crumpled paper or newsprint. Incidentally, crumpled paper is available for small, light, but also for heavy goods.

Bubble wrap

This material is particularly suitable for wrapping smaller items and padding them for shipping.

Filling material for packages

A good alternative is corrugated board. It fulfils the same functions, but is recyclable!

Environmentally friendly outer packaging for your sustainable e-commerce

Once you have chosen the right size of outer packaging, the first step towards cost-saving sustainable packaging is taken. The second step is to implement "cardboard instead of plastic"!

Even better than packages made of cardboard are those made of recycled cardboard. Incidentally, Swiss Post offers them in various sizes.Environmentally friendly cardboard for ecological transport

If you are sending goods that are sensitive to temperatures, the ThermoCare packaging is available from the post office. They enable temperature-controlled shipping without additional cooling systems. Would you like to find out more? On this website you will find an explanatory video.
Sending refrigerated shipments

Another advantage of this special material: ThermoCare boxes are reusable boxes and can be completely recycled at the end of their service life.

Adhesive tape

Parcel tape consists mainly of plastic film, PP or PVC coated with a chemical adhesive. 

But there is also an eco-friendly alternative here! Namely parcel tape made of paper coated with resin that can be recycled without any problems. There are two different types available:

  • Classic Version
  • Moist version. The tape is moistened and then bonds firmly to the cardboard. This method adheres very well and is very safe for shipping.

A small disadvantage of paper tape is that it is not transparent.

  • Pro tip:
    Not only packaging is important for sustainable e-commerce. We have collected even more exciting information for you on this topic. Have a look!


In a nutshell:

Did you read the whole blog? Great! So that you now have all the information at a glance, we have summarized the most important things for you:

  • Your customers want eco-friendly packaging.
  • This is the fastest way to reach your goal:
    • Minimize the packaging material to the minimum.
    • Use previously used material for packaging.
    • Use biodegradable or recyclable materials for packaging.
    • Sustainable packaging is not always obvious to your customers. Therefore, make them aware that you are shipping in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. #zerowaste

Optimize your logistics and shipping process! Try out our Optimizer 4.0

Sustainability is on everyone's lips today, and has long since ceased to be just a trend. Customers expect sustainability to be taken into account in e-commerce as well. One way of responding to your customer needs is sustainable packaging. In the following blog we give you tips on how you can package your products ecologically and score points with your customers.