China Cracks Down on Packaging Waste Amid E-Commerce Boom

China is stepping up its sustainability efforts.

Following last week’s meeting of State Post Bureau officials, director Ma Junsheng oversaw the passing of new standards to encourage green packaging as the country aims to reduce delivery waste that stems from the retail sector, particularly through the postal business. (The Chinese government issued a wider national green standard to take effect on Sept. 1.)

“Building an ecological civilization is a millennium plan that affects the people’s well-being and the future of the nation, and is an important strategic task for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” read a translated version of the document.

China boasts one of the world’s most complex logistics industries, with Alibaba-owned Cainiao, JD.com and SF Express among the services that handle distribution to millions of e-commerce shoppers on a daily basis.

The set of standards detailed a “focus on reducing and reusing targets, unswervingly promoting the development of green and low-carbon cycles, and laying a solid foundation for the postal industry pollution prevention and control.” It also included guidelines aimed at reducing the use of disposable woven plastic bags in favor of more sustainable packaging material.

The announcement comes a month after China’s wildly anticipated Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza, in which approximately 1.88 billion packages were sent to online shoppers within 10 days since Nov. 11. It marked a 25.8 percent increase from 2017’s numbers, or more than one package for each person in the world’s most populated country.

Further, global environmental organization Greenpeace shared that less than 10 percent of the nation’s packaging material — including paper, plastic, cardboard and tape — is recycled. A Reuters report citing the nonprofit estimated that China will produce more than 160,000 tons of packaging waste after last year’s Singles’ Day.

(Despite the impact, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that retail sales in China rose 8.1 percent in November — the slowest pace since 2003 and well short of the 8.8 percent estimated by analysts.)

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