E-commerce contributes to plastic pollution

10 Oct 2018 / 21:12 H.

    SCIENCE and technology have really improved our lifestyles. Everything is easily done right at your fingertips.
    With the current digital world, online shopping sites are mushrooming and making business organisations switch over from the traditional method of selling goods.
    Globally, online retail market total reached US$1.316 trillion in 2014. The forces behind e-commercialisation are complex and driven by both market and consumer demands.
    In fact, most of the consumers nowadays would prefer to shop online. They can easily purchase items from the comfort of their own homes or work place, then wait for their parcel to be delivered.
    Online shopping has indeed made our life easier and convenient. Some would rather claim that online shopping could literally reduce their carbon footprint as they would not have to drive to the shop and burn fuel to buy only one item.
    But, how about the plastics that are used to wrap the parcel? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, e-commerce packaging accounts for 30% of solid waste generated in the US.
    Meanwhile, India's e-commerce packaging industry was worth US$32 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow rapidly to about US$73 billion by 2020.
    On the other side, during China's Singles' Day online discount sales bonanza around 160,000 tonnes of packaging waste had been produced.
    Packaging continues to play a pivotal role in both the brand and the consumer's e-commerce experience. There are many factors to consider when selecting packaging for an order, which are product protection, branding and safeguarding the product, including its freshness.
    Presently, e-commerce packaging comes in multiple layers, which is made of plastic, paper, bubble wrap, air packets, tape and cardboard cartons. Even though these are recyclable items, one study carried out in India found that a large portion of these materials will end up clogging our drains and landfills.
    There are no specific laws regulating e-commerce plastic packaging. Therefore, any laws that aim to regulate e-commerce packaging must address some critical issues such as standard of packaging, the method and materials used for e-commerce packaging, and must be based on environmental principles.
    In conclusion, online shopping does make our life easier but we should review the catastrophe on the environment caused by our greediness for convenience.
    Nur Imani binti Abdullah
    Forum Air Malaysia


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