The race for reusable solutions in e-commerce is picking up speed. Among the younger providers is the Munich-based start-up Hey Circle. Its shipping boxes and bags are made of recyclable PP and PE plastics and can be rented by users. A network of partners is supposed to ensure simple returns. The upcoming EU regulations under the new Packaging And Packaging Waste Regulation, at the latest, will finally bring the issue of reusable shipping packaging to the market. Currently, many alternatives are still very complicated. It will be interesting to see which suppliers will ultimately win the race – and how “lean” their solution can be.
As a rule, shipping packaging is currently used only once and then (in the best case) ends up in the right collection container to be recycled. To conserve resources and avoid emissions, the industry is looking for more sustainable solutions. One possible concept is reusable packaging, as offered by the young company Hey Circle since the beginning of 2022.
The environmental aspects
- The start-up offers boxes and bags in various sizes.
- The patented solutions are lightweight and can be folded for return. They aim to minimize the climate footprint during transport.
- According to the startup, 40 turns result in a 40 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to a fiber-based single-use solution.
- The reusable packaging consists of more than 95 percent PP and a residual amount of PE. For both types of plastic, there are established material streams that enable recycling at the end of the (first) life cycle.
- In the long term, new reusable shipping packaging with a high recycled content is to be produced from the recyclate thus obtained.
- Users can rent the reusable packaging from Hey Circle and either bear the costs themselves or pass them on to their customers.
- A network of partners is to ensure simple returns. In addition to the parcel service provider, Hey Circle also wants to build up a network of drop-off points, for example in drugstores, supermarkets and pharmacies.
- To achieve a high return rate, the start-up relies on a downstream deposit system. If packaging is not returned, it will be invoiced.
Technical complexity as a sticking point
Until now, most reusable solutions for online retail have been very technology-driven and thus correspondingly expensive. For example, the Danish provider SwipBox offers a shipping box with an e-ink display, which is also known from the manufacturer Livingpackets who tries to establish its solution since 2016. The disadvantage: E-ink displays are not compatible with package redirections or any necessary address corrections, at least not at present. Technical solutions for tracking and security often become costly when the packaging gets damaged or lost.
The race is on
The race for reusable solutions in e-commerce is picking up speed. The development is being driven primarily by consumers’ desire for sustainability and pressure from regulators. A look at the EU Commission’s proposal for the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation shows how concretely and massively politicians are tackling the issue.
Many of the new suppliers seem to be relying on rather complicated solutions. It will be exciting to see how more streamlined solutions such as those from Hey Circle perform on the market.