The purchasing habits of consumers have exceedingly changed with the advent of online shopping. Over the years, more and more people switched to the convenience of online shopping through the use of several e-commerce websites like Amazon and eBay. In 2020, online shopping accelerated at full speed due to the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since stores are closed and people are advised to stay home, consumers turn to online shopping to purchase items they need. With the convenience it brings, a problem, however, arises that’s commonly overlooked - packaging waste. In this article, find out what online shopping has done for businesses and to the environment and how consumers and businesses can do their part in reducing packaging waste.
The Pandemic and the Growth of E-commerce
E-commerce has been growing at a fast pace even more so during the pandemic. According to an article by digitalcommerce360.com, e-commerce sales skyrocketed at 32% growth from 2019 to 2020. “E-commerce sales hit $791.70 billion in 2020, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion in the prior year, according to Commerce Department figures.” The pandemic brought an additional $105 Billion in U.S. online revenue in 2020 and has accelerated e-commerce by two years.
The top industries that grew significantly during this extraordinary time were food and grocery retailers, toys and hobby retailers, and consumer electronics. Food and grocery retailers jumped to a 100% growth while 63.1% for toys and hobbies retailers and 61.5% for consumer electronics. While the growth of online retail has been keeping businesses and the economy afloat, another growing problem is the acceleration of plastic pollution through online packaging waste. In Oceana.org's “Amazon’s Plastic Problem Revealed”, their study exposed how Amazon generated an estimated 465 million pounds, or 211 million kilograms (kg), of plastic packaging in 2019. With the exponential growth of e-commerce in 2020, environmentalists’ call to reduce plastic and offer plastic-free choices from businesses heightens.
Plastic Waste: The Impending Consequence
The negative consequences of plastic waste intensify as online shopping packaging waste accumulates. According to the article, Tackling Increasing Plastic Waste, plastic takes over 400 years to break down, clogging drains, causing respiratory issues when burned, shortening animal lifespans when consumed, and contaminating water bodies when dumped into canals and oceans. In addition, plastic turns into microplastics that disrupt food chains and degrades natural habitats. In fact, microplastics are now discoverable in human organs since it is believed that humans eat and breathe at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year. We have reached the state wherein plastic is not only present everywhere, but also inside us and we don’t know its side effects.
Choosing Better Alternatives to Lower Down Packaging Waste
The good news is, business owners and consumers can work hand in hand to help lower down online shopping plastic waste. In fact, people have found ways to reduce plastic packaging by developing alternative packaging material and it is now available in the market. A good example of this is compostable mailers. Unlike plastic mailers, compostable mailers can break down in home compost bins and industrial composts in approximately 3 months. This is considerably faster than plastic mailers since plastic takes over 400 years or more to break down. Compostable mailers are made up of a combination of cornstarch and PBAT, a binding ingredient that enables them to quickly break down in home compost bins. An additional benefit of these compostable mailers is that it enriches the soil by providing it nutrients when it composts and turns into “black gold”.
Another approach to lower down packaging waste is to ensure all orders are consolidated in one cart. When people order multiple items and check out in different carts, more packaging is used. Lessen carbon footprint by finding all necessities in one store and ordering items in one cart. It is also helpful to support businesses that follow eco-friendly practices.
It may seem like reducing plastic waste is a long battle but if business owners and consumers make an effort to research alternatives and switch to using them, we do have a fighting chance to reduce plastic waste. If we can only hope to step it a little further, government intervention or the will to act of big corporations to switch to better alternatives can greatly help stop the impending plastic pandemic.
Are you a business interested in making the switch to compostable mailers? Get in touch with us at email@example.com or browse our website at www.minliving.com