Avocadostore, Otto and Tchibo Test Reusable Mailing Bags

The praxPACK research project on reusable packaging in the mail order business is making progress. Avocadostore, Otto and Tchibo are now testing RePack shipping bags in use. Experiences and results are to be systematically processed, transferred to an online toolbox and made available to the e-commerce industry.

800,000 tonnes of shipping packaging per year, in Germany alone: that’s not a cardboard stick. „If things continue like this in the retail sector, in four years we will break the one million tonne mark for Shipping packaging waste,“ warns Lisa Rödig from the Hamburg Institute for Ecology and Politics (Ökopol).

The institute is coordinating the research project praxPACK, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in this context. The aim of the project is the dissemination of recyclable packaging. The RePack system will be tested in an initial practical test phase, which will start at Avocadostore, Otto and Tchibo in August 2020. The RePack reusable mailing bag is made of recycled plastic, can be folded to letter size by the customer and returned by post.

Concrete results expected by early 2022

How can reusable mailing bags be introduced into your own logistics? Are they practical and profitable? What is the acceptance by the customer? Questions like these should be answered by the test run. Experiences and results are to be processed systematically and user-oriented, transferred to an online toolbox and made available to the e-commerce industry.

The partners, who have already come together in 2019, expect concrete results by early 2022. „The aim is to generate comprehensive findings on how reusable systems need to be designed so that they are practical and economically viable, and which industry-specific and political framework conditions can support this,“ says Till Zimmermann of Ökopol.

Tchibo focuses on textile mail order

From the end of August, Tchibo plans to replace around 7,500 disposable shipping bags with RePack reusable bags. Tchibo intends to mainly consider shipping orders for textiles within Germany in this trial project. Customers will be selected at random. The acceptance of the system and potential for improvement will be determined in a customer survey.

„In the test phase, a few points are crucial: how well does the reusable bag pass through the logistics processes? What effects does the reusable bag cause at the packing station? And last but not least: Will the customers also return the reusable bags? We are very curious about the reactions and hope for good cooperation from our environmentally conscious customers,“ says Alexander Ralfs, Director Supply Chain Management & Logistics at Tchibo.

Avocadostore wants to offer RePack as an option

The online marketplace for Eco Fashion and Green Lifestyle will be launched in the project to take a pioneering role for its labels and establish reusable mailing bags among the 4,000 brands. The project is scheduled to start in mid-August: The marketplace plans to send up to 2,000 own retail packages in the eco fashion sector with the RePack returnable system.

Avocadostore will offer its customers the reusable shipping bag as an option during the check-out process. If the customer chooses this option, he or she will pay a premium for the more environmentally friendly shipping solution. In addition, the company intends to set up targeted focus groups with customers to collect further qualitative data.

Otto checks additional expenditure

RePack already has a functioning circulation system on a small scale, according to Otto. We are testing its use in existing processes and its acceptance by consumers. One important question, among others, is what hurdles the logistics partner Hermes Fulfilment has to overcome by using RePack bags throughout the entire logistics process.

The additional expense was not to be dismissed – especially if a reusable system was to be established on a large scale. Additional vehicle capacities and structures would be required, and additional work would also be created in the logistics and dispatch centres through reprocessing. In the first test, the company relied on the goodwill and willingness to cooperate of its customers. But this could not be a permanent solution. In the long term, a uniform deposit and return system would have to be considered.