Reusable Packaging for Online Retailing

The Austrian Post Office and its partners have published results of the “Green Packaging” pilot test. Now it’s time for the next step. Starting spring 2023, the solution is to be available as a regular service.

Reusable packaging for online retailing: that was the goal of a pilot project by Österreichische Post (Austrian Post Office) and FH Oberösterreich (Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences) in cooperation with the five retail companies dm, Interspar weinwelt, Intersport, Tchibo, and Thalia. According to the initiators, the project was a complete success.

The pilot test was monitored with a rigorous carbon footprint analysis conducted by the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences. This involved calculating the climate impact of a package over its entire life cycle, including the production of the package, the delivery to retailers, and the energy consumed in receiving, sorting, and delivery by the postal service. The “Green Packaging” pilot test took place from March to September of this year, with a total of several thousand orders in reusable packaging sent out.

Among other things, this showed that the return via mailboxes, post offices, or post office self-service zones , including transport back to the retail companies, functioned smoothly. It was further stated that in practice, ten to 20 dispatch cycles per packaging were assumed to be realistic. Packaging that can be shipped up to 100 times is lost before reaching this mark due to the return rate. As a result, its longevity could not be optimally utilized. Packaging should therefore be inexpensive and functional instead of expensive and particularly durable.

The test of reusable wine packaging for Interspar weinwelt is being extended. Several generations of prototypes have been developed in close cooperation with the retail company and the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences to guarantee the quality of the wines in the reusable packaging as well. The practical test will run until the end of the year.

New service starting spring 2023

The Austrian Post Office now plans to offer “Green Packaging” as a regular service starting in spring 2023. Retail companies will then be able to rent packaging from the Austrian Post Office and offer it to their customers at check-out. If the recipient chooses this packaging, the company will pack the product in reusable packaging and the parcel will be delivered by the Austrian Post Office as usual.

The recipient removes the ordered product, folds the packaging, and returns it via mailboxes, post office branches, post office self-service zones or directly at a location of the retail company. The packaging then goes to a Post Office processing center, where it is cleaned and stored until the next retrieval.

Cardboard boxes and bags made of wood fiber are used, which can be reused up to 30 times. Retailers can decide for themselves whether to offer the reusable packaging at the normal price, with a one-time surcharge or with a packaging deposit.

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