The next delivery box on your doorstep may be eco-friendly

Ma Yue
A Shanghai company has pioneered a recyclable polypropylene packing box that reduces cardboard waste and saves shippers money.
Ma Yue
The next delivery box on your doorstep may be eco-friendly
Ti Gong

The courier delivering goods to a buyer retrieves the ZerOBox after a parcel is opened.

An eco-friendly packaging innovation called ZerOBox, developed by Shanghai-based Huidu Eco-Technologies Co, is being hailed by environmental authorities as a major step in eliminating mounting waste from traditional cardboard boxes.

The boxes are made of a light, non-toxic polypropylene and are 100 percent recyclable. They have a patented locking design that requires no tape or glue to seal. The boxes can be used up to 20 times and can be “regenerated” by the manufacturer if they are damaged in use.

Jingdong Logistics Group, Suning Logistics Group, and Yanxuan are among the companies using the boxes. An estimated 700,000 are circulating in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou.

According to Huidu, the production cost of a ZerObox is about twice that of traditional cardboard but saves companies an average 30 percent in packaging costs because of its durability and multiple-use capabilities.

“Currently, we lease the boxes to clients who either have their own recycling systems or can build them,” said Pu Yini, marketing director of Huidu. “The courier delivering goods to a buyer retrieves the ZerOBox after a parcel is opened.”

The packaging industry has been developing rapidly on the coattails of China’s booming e-commerce.

The China Packaging Federation said that more than 10 billion cardboard packing boxes produced last year used 4,600 tons of base paper — equal to 72 million trees — and 300 million rolls of packing tape.

“Apart from consuming resources, traditional packing boxes add pressure on the city’s garbage treatment facilities because they are only used once or twice, then discarded,” said Shi Min, deputy chief of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau’s International Cooperation Division.

The division is in charge of a “green supply chain” program that promotes innovative companies in the realm of environmental sustainability.

“The city government encourages enterprises to explore environmentally friendly logistic solutions, and Huidu is a model company in this regard,” said Shi.

Pu said the creation of recycling systems has been key to popularizing the new box.

“Currently, the ZerOBox is used in the delivery of products like computers, cellphones and other consumer electronics,” she said. “The customer is required to open the box on arrival and check the goods, so the courier can take the box back. But if a customer isn’t at home, the box can be retrieved on the next parcel delivery. We are working on other solutions, including the establishment of recycling spots where people will be encouraged to return the boxes.”

Pu said the company will introduce new products in the future, including its CoolBox and ZerOBag. The CoolBox uses a food-grade inner membrane that can be used in the delivery of food and fresh flowers. The waterproof ZerOBag is designed for the delivery of documents.

Huidu has received 10 million yuan (US$1.47 million) funding from angel investors last year.

The company currently operates three production plants and has an administrative staff of 50 people.

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