OTTO is the first online store in Germany to send selected online orders in fully compostable, biodegradable shipping bags. These are made of grass paper and a bio-based plastic substitute that is produced from plant waste and, according to the manufacturer, degrades within two weeks.
The shipping bags were developed by OTTO together with Hamburg-based start-up traceless, which is the winner of the German Founders’ Prize 2022. In a nationwide pilot test, OTTO will soon be shipping the compostable bags to customers for the first time. They replace conventional shipping bags made of recycled plastic and help to further reduce OTTO’s packaging waste as Germany’s largest online store.
OTTO uses shipping bags primarily for textiles and robust small items, such as vacuum cleaner bags or razor blades. The requirements for shipping bags are high: for example, they must be guaranteed to be completely opaque, water-resistant, and tear-proof. The first traceless bags are now being tested for their suitability for everyday use under real shipping conditions. There will be no additional costs or disadvantages for customers, the company says.
Pilot test starts
For Karla Jabben, packaging expert in the OTTO sustainability team, the upcoming dress rehearsal is an important milestone in the cooperation with traceless: “In this first pilot test, we will send 5,000 shipping bags to all customers who place an order during the test period. The material makes the bags look very different from our previous ones: they are very shiny and the grass paper texture is clearly visible. Of course, the customers won’t know in advance that they will be sent a traceless bag. We want to rely on the surprise effect to get honest feedback.”
The traceless pouches would have to fulfill various functions in order to be used in the future. “We primarily want to find out whether shipping with the bag works, i.e., whether the packaging protects the item. In addition, there should be as little air as possible in the bag so that the available storage space can be used in the best possible way during transport. Other points are the conveyability on the technical equipment and whether it can be easily opened, and in case of a return, of course, closed again. It is also important for us to know whether customers understand the special nature of the material. An accompanying survey will be conducted for this purpose,” explains Jabben.