‘Air-commerce’ – 85 million m3 of air is shipped to UK homes each year: DS Smith

Oversized packaging generating 86,071 tons of excess CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to nearly 5 million online delivery journeys
‘Air-commerce’ – 85 million m3 of air is shipped to UK homes each year: DS Smith
Photo - DS Smith

New research from DS Smith reveals that 85 million m3 of air is being shipped to UK homes each year due to unnecessary packaging – equivalent to more than 34,000 Olympic swimming pools.

As the price of raw materials increases across industries, oversized boxes containing excess material are causing nearly 5 million unnecessary delivery journeys, leading to 86,071 tonnes of potentially avoidable CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year.

DS Smith’s research has found that cardboard boxes that do not fit their contents unnecessarily transport this excess air on lorries and into consumer homes, as well as needlessly deploying:

  • 169,291 tonnes of extra cardboard – at a cost of £39.4 million

  • 480 million m2 of plastic tape – approximately the size of West Yorkshire

  • 80 million m3 of filler – enough to fill the O2 arena 36 times over

In addition to the environmental impacts of oversized boxes, there is a knock-on negative effect on brand perception. When faced with a box with too much packaging, 43 per cent of consumers say it has made them feel frustrated with the retail brand.

Setting out their expectations, consumers say they would like to receive packaging made from alternative renewable sources (41%), packaging that tightly fits oddly shaped items (32%) and packaging that is waterproof (30%) in the future.

167 million packages are sent each month through online shopping, and the research found that while four fifths (80%) of businesses that sell goods online admit to often using packaging that is not closely sized to the product, more than half are focused on its recyclability (55%) and over a third on the reusability (35%) of packaging.

Stefano Rossi, DS Smith Packaging chief executive officer, comments, “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.”

More information about the circular economy and DS Smith’s Circular Design Metrics can be found here.

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