Transport packaging waste management in E-commerce industry: Opportunities and risks
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Free and easy returns cause more packaging waste in online purchases. With a growing number of waste import bans in Asian countries, waste exports are now a less viable option. The high quality and low market value of post-consumer packaging increase the difficulties of packaging waste recycling. Current research often focuses on the design and material choices of packaging, the broad perspective of considering the factors leading to sustainability in E-commerce packaging has yet to be explored empirically. This study has two primary objectives: a) to explore the role and responsibilities of the E-commerce business in post-consumer packaging waste management under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and b) to identify the barriers and drivers to improve packaging waste management across the E-commerce industry. As part of the first objective, the study adopted a systematic review method to review 34 papers about the best practices of packaging waste management across the retail sector over ten years (2011-2020). The results reveal that the best practices in packaging waste management are primarily based on five objectives of packaging sustainability guidelines, including optimizing resources, responsible sourcing, resource recovery, material health, and consumer engagement. Of these, consumer engagement is highlighted as a strong effort on packaging waste recycling with low cost and high efficiency. In pursuit of the second objective, the study employed a case study method to assess the current E-commerce package waste program with the best practices. The results show that best practices in the retailing industry are applied to the E-commerce business, and improvements are needed. The author undertook a content analysis to assess each e-commerce firm's packaging sustainability. This analysis confirms that firms in the E-commerce industry become similar to meet the needs of legitimacy, and institutional pressures affect green practices. Barriers have been explored and scopes of improving the packaging waste management framework identified. E-commerce businesses are aware of packaging issues and take green practices, but the packaging sustainability strategies vary across business models. The hybrid firms, which have both Business to Consumer (B2C) and Consumer to Consumer (C2C) models, perform better in packaging sustainability than B2C and C2C businesses. For a shift towards a full EPR in packaging waste, harmonized identification of the packaging producer in the E-commerce industry is also needed, a fundamental requirement for EPR regulation implementation. The role and responsibilities of the online platform should be recognized in transport packaging sustainability, especially for C2C online retailing. Besides the government's outcome-results requirements, design and operation guidelines for sustainable packaging would be required in the E-commerce industry. Overall, this work is the first attempt to evaluate online platforms' current packaging waste sustainability and the potential for complete producer control in the E-commerce industry. Furthermore, the study offers insight into how institutional theory might be adopted in corporate green strategies analysis across the industry.
Cite this version of the work
Yi Yang (2022). Transport packaging waste management in E-commerce industry: Opportunities and risks. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18733