The upward trend in online shopping is generating an increase in plastic packaging waste. For the 60 per cent of consumers who would prefer to buy products from brands taking action to reduce their environmental impact, a solution is at hand from start-up The Better Packaging Co. PKN speaks to co-founder Kate Bezar.
As Christmas approaches, Australia is entering peak consumption season, with online sales accounting for a major chunk of all retail sales. According to the Australia Post 2019 eCommerce Industry Report, the five weeks from 11 November to 15 December accounted for almost 15 per cent of all eCommerce transactions in 2018, which totalled $27.5 billion for the year (an increase of 24.4% year on year). End-of-year sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw a significant 28 per cent growth in consumers shopping online. The report states that the week before Christmas 2018 was Australia’s peak week for express shipping, accounting for nearly 32 per cent of all deliveries compared to an average of 19 per cent across all other weeks. All indicators point to an increase again in 2019.
So, what does this mean for e-commerce packaging?
According to Kate Bezar, co-founder of The Better Packaging Company, the uptick in parcel traffic sees a corresponding increase in single-use plastics in the form of plastic shipping bags, bubble wrap and polystyrene filler.
Bezar and business partner Rebecca Percasky have observed this trend over the years they worked with couriers and in e-Commerce. Bezar says they were both alarmed by the amount of waste the e-commerce industry was generating so they set about finding a solution to bring what they call 'Earth-friendly alternatives' to the packing table. After two years of R&D, the duo founded The Bettter Packaging Co in 2008. The company is headquartered in New Zealand, but 75 per cent of its sales are in Australia.
Bezar says the latest industry reports indicate that some 60 per cent of consumers want to receive their parcels in sustainable packaging, with many choosing to purchase from ethically aligned companies and brands.
“With 73 per cent of Australian households now shopping online, brands are actively contributing to the waste issue if they aren’t making the most sustainable packaging choice,” says Bezar.
The Better Packaging Co is on a mission to reduce plastic waste in this sector and educate brands on the alternative and financially viable packaging solutions available.
The company has created sustainable (compostable, biodegradable and recyclable) alternatives to traditional plastic packaging such as courier bags, poly bags and padded mailers to encourage the eCommerce and retail industry to make the swap. Brands can customise the packaging with their logos and marketing messages.
Bezar says they have racked up thousands of customers already, and by October 2019, year on year growth had reached 570%.
The corn-based feedstock for the packaging is sourced in Asia, where the packaging is also manufactured. Bezar explains that the corn source was stockpiled by the Chinese government in years past in case of famine. The product is no longer fit for human consumption, she says, but can be converted to cornstarch and ultimately into a bio-based plastic that can be combined with PLA to form the packaging substrate used for the bags and labels.
While the packaging is compostable in home composting facilities, The Better Packaging Company is also in the process of establishing a global network of collection points for certified compostable packaging, which Bezar says they hope to have established before the end of the year. A customised app has been developed and consumers will be able to access information about the closest collection point by scanning a QR code on the packaging.
Commenting on whether the slightly higher price point of the company's packaging will preclude further growth for the business, Bezar says, "The pressure on brands to provide consumers with a sustainable alternative is only going to increase. The cost of not doing it far outweighs the premium paid for a better packaging alternative."
Looking ahead, she says there are new products in the pipeline for 2020 that are set to deliver even better environmental benefits. PKN will cover the developments as the products come to market.