Sustainability in e-commerce packaging: A review
Online purchasing, and hence e-commerce packaging production and use, have grown steadily in recent years, and so has their environmental impact as a result. This paper reviews the evolution of packaging over the last century through a compilation of scientific literature on e-commerce packaging focusing on its environmental side. The primary aims were to identify research gaps in e-commerce packaging and to propose new research lines aimed at reducing its environmental impact. A systematic search of abstracts was conducted to identify articles dealing with sustainability in e-commerce packaging in order to better understand changes in materials and formats, identify problems such as oversizing and allow prospective readers to become acquainted with the latest innovations in materials, sustainability and logistics. Based on existing research, packaging materials and technology evolved rapidly until the 1990s. Later, however, it has become increasingly difficult to further reduce their cost and environmental impact. Also, some packaging products continue to be made from non-renewable materials and thus restrict growth of e-commerce. Further research is needed with a view to producing new packages from renewable sources such as cellulose-containing materials, which are widely available in nature, or from recycled cellulose-based materials such as cartonboard. Improving distribution processes with new, more effective tools could additionally help alleviate the environmental impact of packaging. Similarly, new production processes such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing might help optimize package volume and shape, thereby facilitating more sustainable production through, for example, reduced CO2 emissions. Currently available technology can be useful to rethink the whole e-commerce packaging paradigm, which has changed very little over the past few decades. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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