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'Green drive' to clean up express delivery sector

Xu Wei
Updated: Dec 23,2020 09:30    China Daily

The central government has ratcheted up measures to promote green packaging in the express delivery sector by encouraging standardized industry practices, the use of more eco-friendly materials and the development of recycling facilities.

China's mammoth e-commerce sector, which recorded total sales of 10 trillion yuan ($1.52 trillion) last year, has given rise to a booming express delivery industry, with plastic bags, cardboard boxes and adhesive tape creating a major trash problem.

A guideline published on Dec 14 by eight central government departments, including the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Post Bureau, pledged accelerated efforts to promote the green transformation of the express delivery sector.

Key measures include revisions to laws and regulations in the sector to offer incentives to businesses, and setting unified standards for green packaging to ensure compliance by industry participants.

As part of the green drive, at least 85 percent of packages will only be wrapped one-time by 2022, while 7 million reusable containers will come into use.

To reduce the use of packaging materials and prevent pollution, the government will push forward key measures to gradually halt the use of nondegradable plastic bags, woven bags and adhesive tape.

China's package orders totaled 63.52 billion last year, up 25.3 percent from 2018. It marked the sixth consecutive year that the country has topped the world in the amount of such orders, according to a report issued by the State Post Bureau in October.

The report said that the country's express delivery sector recycled 200 million cardboard boxes last year as part of the green transformation drive.

"It requires a joint effort from the whole industry chain to solve the pollution problem of mailed packages," said Hu Kai, deputy-director of the State Post Bureau's development and research center.

He noted that over 70 percent of package orders are generated by the e-commerce sector, and it is important to ensure e-commerce platforms and businesses can meet their responsibilities on pollution control.

Hu highlighted the need to design and use wrapping materials that can meet logistics companies' demands and enable more products to be mailed without having to be packaged a second time by couriers.

The guideline urged quicker steps to devise compulsory standards on hazard-free and recyclable packaging materials and the certification of green packages.

To promote standardized practices in the industry, it pledged to develop packaging that better accommodates the size of goods and ban low-quality materials, such as those that fail to meet standards on heavy metals and solvents.

Express delivery businesses will be encouraged to boost training of their couriers to improve their skills, while authorities will include inspections of sorting, packaging and delivery in their random checks of businesses.

Lin Ling, a researcher from the China National Institute of Standardization, said "the implementation of the guideline can help shape a more systematic and scientific set of industry standards, thus effectively reducing disputes and improving efficiency."

To bolster the recycling of packaging materials, the guideline said the use of recyclable products will be promoted. Local authorities must develop facilities for the recycling of packages in communities, colleges and business districts, while express delivery branches will also be encouraged to offer recycling services.

Central government finance will extend support to the development of a green logistics and express delivery system as well as professional recycling facilities. The government is also considering giving green credits to businesses participating in such programs, the guideline said.

Zhu Liyang, president of the China Association of Circular Economy, said the guideline has policy measures that are ready to be implemented and points the way for the green transformation of the sector.

"The latest policies have made clear that couriers and e-commerce businesses must assume the principal responsibilities, a move that will pave the way for the future green development of the sector," he said.