How green will your business be in 2018?
A New Year is traditionally the time for New Year resolutions and one that might be worth asking this year is how green is your business?
Being green doesn’t make money, but it might save money and make you more attractive to environmentally conscious buyers. However there is increasing government focus which could force retailers to change their practises.
CitySprint Hydrogen delivery vans
One business that is considering their impact on the environment is CitySprint, the guys that power On the dot who have just announced trials of a hydrogen van to complete same day deliveries within London. The vehicle will be used for distribution for a number of their clients over the next six months. Over this time, they will be monitoring its performance against the rest of their green fleet to determine the effect on total emission output.
Produced by Renault, the hydrogen van is powered by a battery and hydrogen fuel cell, allowing for travel of up to 200 miles. Hydrogen combines with the air to create electricity which is then used to drive the vehicle and charge the battery. This process means that only drops of pure water are emitted from the vehicle.
“The trial of a hydrogen van is on a long list of environmentally friendly vehicles we have tested over the years. We hope that along with our growing cargo bike fleet, this can prove to be a sustainable option and continue our commitment to reducing air pollution across the UK cities we operate in.”
– Patrick Gallagher, CitySprint group chief executive
Single use plastics
In the wake of BBC’s ‘The Blue Planet’, single use plastics are even higher on the agenda then ever before, coupled with the fact that China has stopped accepting the UK’s plastics for recycling meaning the problem of what to do with plastic now stays in Britain.
Ecommerce is particularly prolific with plastic being used in everything from bubblewrap and bubble bags, plastic mailing sacks, packing peanuts and reel after reel of plastic parcel tape which often tends to end up stuck to otherwise recyclable cardboard boxes.
Packing tape is a problem that even eBay haven’t solved for their colourful branded eBay Packaging – just about every product is 100% recyclable barring the packing tape and frankly a box isn’t much use unless you can seal it!
There are more environmentally gentle options that can be used for packaging such as paper or cardboard fillers to replace bubblewrap but these all come at a cost – often the cost of machinery and space in the warehouse to produce the filler onsite.
What can you do to make your business more green?
One of the biggest problems, not just in the ecommerce industry but across the entire supply chain, is easily identifying what packaging is recyclable and what’s not. Shampoo bottles are generally recyclable but often not the bottle caps. Plastic bags that food is pre-packed in are often recyclable but I’m betting most people don’t even check if the bag their apples came in goes in general waste or the recycling bin – you have to hunt in the small print on the back of the bag to find out.
It’s simply not possible to have a 100% environmentally friendly business, but small changes can make a difference. What will you be doing in 2018 to make your business greener – can you buy different packaging at the same or lower cost? Can you reduce your reliance on bubblewrap and is there any way that you can lower the yard after yard of parcel tape used on every box that goes out of your warehouse?
We try and do our bit, but by the very nature of our business we use alot of cardboard and bubble wrap! The cardboard is the easiest to try and be more eco with. We try and reuse stock boxes for outgoing orders where ever possible, so they atleast get 2 uses rather than just one. Any that we don’t reuse get flat paced and either sent to recyling or offered on our local Facebay sites as free to home movers etc who are always asking for boxes, so again another 2nd use. It’s great to seem them often reoffered to others after use too! As an added bonus it saves us money on waste disposal.
Bubble wrap however is more difficult. Again we reuse any that comes in our stock boxes, but we still end up using about 3 to 4 MILES of it a year for packaging, we have tried corregated cardboard and shreaded paper etc, but not only is it far less cost effective but it’s not always practical …. Now we looked into the biodegradable bubble wrap, but it is alot more expensive again. I would love to just absorb the cost, but in this day of free delivery and a race to the bottom on price, I simply can’t afford to be increasing costs when there isa suitable alternative for less. All our B.W is recyclable, but it does vary from council to council. We are in a National park yet out recycling system is dire and one of the worst in the country. There is soo much we can’t recycle because the council doesnt do it but could be. This is a major issue and one the government need to look at rather than just hammering consumers and retailers.
So it’s a very mixed bag here…. With lower prices on biodegradable options we could do more, with better recycling options we could do more. If the customer focus wasnt on the lowest price regardless…. we could do more. But for now, we do what we can.
Bravo Toby, great to hear what you’re doing. You are so right about the hike in price for biodegradeable bubble wrap – you’d think by now someone would have figured out a way to make it cost effective and thus more attractive and the defacto choice based on cost, not desire to be green!
Packing tape is the big problem, although this year we are cutting down by using crash boxes which should mean no tape being used to seal the bottom of the boxes, cost about 7-9p per box more but also time saving, so quicker to pack.
Packing boxes are all recyclable, so can be put in customers recycling bin. Why do councils have different colour wheelie bins?
Inbound stock boxes / packing is all taken to a local waste paper recycling centre and tipped for free rather than paying at the council tip.
We use biodegradable peanuts for filling our boxes, about £12 per 15 cubic foot bag, we do get customers that complain about the amount of packaging used, but once told that they dissolve in water are usually happy.
Bubble wrap, never use it.
Am sure most of use do our bit here though i think the biggest issue is food packaging, just think of all the plastic we buy. Plastic drinks bottles, prepacked food, frozen goods, take away containers and so on. Thes must be by far the biggest use of plastics.