Finnish innovation creates trash-free deliveries
Unboxing and disposing of piles of packaging material is deemed a necessary evil of online shopping. But not anymore, a Finnish startup thinks it has the solution.
Every year over 3.7 billion disposable packages are delivered to consumers in Europe solely from e-commerce, according to the 2014 Europe B2C Ecommerce Report. The result is vast amounts of waste, something Finnish sustainable design startup RePack believes can be avoided. The company has created packaging which is reusable up to 50 times, returnable and stylish.
“We believe that as long as reuse is made easy, people prefer it to throwawayism,” says Jonne Hellgren, co-founder of RePack.
How RePack works is simple. When shopping online a customer chooses RePack as the delivery option for a small extra fee, usually around five euros. After their shopping is delivered, the customer folds the packing and places it into a post office or post box anywhere in the EU. When the webstore receives the returned packaging the user is rewarded with a voucher (usually ten euros) to use at any web store using RePack service.
According to RePack, its postal returns system reduces CO2 emissions by up to 75 per cent in comparison to recycling and remaking new, disposable packaging.
All started from waste
In 2011 the founders of RePack, Hellgren, Juha Mäkelä and Petri Piirainen were doing product development work for the Finnish postal service, Itella. There they witnessed first hand the vast amounts of disposable packaging moving through logistics centers.
It was a lightbulb moment for Mäkelä. He envisioned a reward-based system of reusable delivery packaging similar to the deposit-based bottle recycling system used in Finland, which has a 98 per cent return rate. After convincing his colleagues of the potential of the system, they started to work on packaging prototypes and RePack packaging was launched in 2012.
RePack packaging can be used in deliveries of any size and shape. The smallest packaging is made out of recycled advertising billboards while larger packaging uses durable, 100 per cent recyclable polypropylene, the same material used in Ikea’s blue and yellow bags.
The first adopters of the packaging solution are Finnish ecological fashion company Globe Hope and Varusteleka, Europe’s biggest military surplus retailer, which have also helped RePack to evolve its concept.
Recently RePack commenced a partnership with Isku, Finland’s largest furniture manufacturer, and it has expanded to delivering packaging for furniture.
“Using RePack has reduced the time it takes Isku employees to pack a furniture for delivery from 16 minutes to two minutes,” says Hellgren. “In addition to basically reducing the amount of delivery packaging waste to zero, our packaging looks cool, it’s easy to open and also reduces packing time for companies.”
Unique solution to a global problem
Currently RePack employs three full time and three part time employees in Finland and is looking to scale up for international markets. Their plans have been given a boost from winning the prestigious Fennia Design Prize in Finland and Green Alley startup competition in Germany and brought well deserved visibility for the company.
RePack is also testing its solution with global logistics giant DHL and the company hopes to bring its packaging solution to the German online retail market before the end of the year. According to Hellgren, several web stores in Germany are already waiting for the green light from the DHL trial.
RePack is looking to the UK as well and there is no reason it should stop there.
“Packaging waste is global problem. Our solution should work anywhere as long as there is a functioning postal service, but our first focus is definitely in building our presence in Europe,” Hellgren concludes.
“When I visit London and see someone carrying our packaging in the tube, then I know we have taken the next big step.”
Text: Eeva Haaramo