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‘Air commerce’ frustrates 43% of UK shoppers – and 32% want packaging that fits ecommerce parcels tightly

Image: Monkey Business/Shutterstock

A significant minority of shoppers say ecommerce deliveries that have too much packaging make them feel frustrated with the retail brand that sent them out, a new study suggests. 

Packaging company DS Smith has calculated that 83m m3 of air is delivered to UK customers every year – in packaging that is too large for the item being delivered. It also questioned 2,000 UK adults in June and found that 43% of shoppers were frustrated by this. Instead, many would rather than packaging made from alternative renewable sources (41%), that fits items tightly, even when oddly shaped (32%) and is waterproof (30%). 

It also questioned 250 respondents responsible for packaging, shipping and logistics at online retailers and found that four fifths (80%) of businesses that sell goods online admit to often using packaging that is not closely sized to the product. At the same time, more than half are focused on its recyclability (55%) and over a third on the reusability (35%) of packaging. 

In total, says DS Smith, 167 million packages are sent each month through online shopping, using 169,291 tonnes of unnecessary cardboard – costing £39.4m, 480m m2 of plastic tape, and 80m m3 of filler – enough to fill the O2 arena 36 times over. 

Stefano Rossi, chief executive of DS Smith Packaging, says: “Consumers want less packaging. Raw materials are more expensive than ever, and the benefits for the environment are significant, so now is the time to design the air out of online shopping.

“Wasted materials are not an accident, waste happens because of choices made at the design stage. The role of design in protecting our planet just can’t be over-estimated – we need to adopt a circular approach, designing out waste to keep materials in use for as long as possible. Through our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation we have already trained 700 DS Smith designers to use circular design principles, who are working on more than 2,000 live ‘circular’ projects. Our hope is that circular principles will become the norm for all design, everywhere, and that ‘air commerce’ quickly becomes a thing of the past.”

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