, - Posted on December 13, 2023

2023 Plastic Solutions Conference

On November 22, 2023, the 5th Plastic Solutions Conference, organized by the Guangdong Circular Economy and Resource Utilization Association and Plastic Free China, was successfully held with the support of the Yunnan Cross-Border E-commerce Association, Guangdong Green Development Alliance for Express Packaging Industry, and the Hangzhou E-commerce Association.

Break Free From Plastic

The event was endorsed by All-China Environment Federation, Solid Waste Treatment and Soil Remediation Engineering Technology Research Center of Haikou City, the Alxa SEE Free Trade Island Project Center, and the China Zero Waste Alliance. The total viewership for this forum exceeded 1.08 million.

Reuse Patterns

Plastic pollution control has become an important challenge for our society today. This global problem not only affects the environment, but also poses a threat to human health. Fu Zhijian, Chief Engineer of Guangdong Circular Economy and Resource Utilization Association, emphasized the need for better alternatives to single-use plastics, stating, “Prevention is better than cure.”

Professor Wen Zongguo of Tsinghua University, a renowned expert in the field of environmental science and engineering, summarized the policy orientation of the whole chain of governance, clear policy objectives, systematic solutions, and detailed responsibility implementation. He highlighted new challenges, such as decision-making bias, misconceptions in plastic pollution governance, and the insufficient consideration of application scenarios and overall effects.

Reusable models refer to using items and packaging repeatedly for a certain number of times without altering their original performance or status, without undergoing significant recycling or major repairs. Many enterprises in China have embraced the "reusable" concept, exemplified by initiatives like circular express delivery boxes and the pilots of reusable takeaway containers.

Citing data from the PEW Foundation's 2022 report, Jia Zhongnan from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation responded to the potential environmental benefits of reusable models, stating that by 2040, appropriate use of reusable models could reduce at least 20% of plastic pollution entering the oceans.

E-commerce Logistics and Reusable Packaging

Liao Wentian, Deputy Director of the Guangdong Green Development Alliance for Express Packaging Industry, introduced the alliance's plans to actively implement the green transformation of express packaging, promote the application of reusable express packaging, reduce secondary packaging of e-commerce parcels, and enhance the standardization of packaging products in line with the Implementation Plan for Promoting High-Quality Development of Postal and Express Delivery Services in Guangdong Province.

Chen Aijia, Project Manager of the Plastic Free China, shared the latest Research Report on the Large-Scale Application of Reusable Express Packaging. The report discussed environmental, economic, and policy advantages of reusable express packaging, provided detailed domestic and international business cases, and ultimately focused on analyzing the challenges of large-scale application of reusable express packaging in China. Three recommendations were proposed: implement incentive support policies from national and local governments; establish a shared return system coordinated by government departments; and promote communication and collaboration among stakeholders to enhance consumer awareness and participation.

During the roundtable discussion featuring industry representatives, participants expressed diverse opinions. Guo Run, Senior Packaging Expert at JD Logistics, emphasized that packaging issues cannot be solved independently by a single enterprise and require close cooperation throughout the supply chain to change traditional single-use packaging design concepts from the source.

Consumer End

Consumer attitudes play a crucial role in the promotion of reusable models. Plastics Free China, in collaboration with MSC Consulting, conducted research, collecting 1,284 questionnaires from various environmental communities and the public nationwide.

Research findings:

  • Over 50% of consumers can identify reusable scenarios.
  • 82.41% of consumers think reusable models can save money.
  • Popular reusable products, such as reusable express delivery boxes and complementary sack of personal care items, have an awareness rate of over 50%.
  • Over 60% of consumers are willing to paying more for green packaging.

The spokesperson for the research, Li Yujun, a Senior Consultant at MSC Consulting, believes that the positive public attitude demonstrates a high acceptance of specific reuse scenarios and applications, indicating significant market space and profit opportunities. Overall, the public is ready for reuse market promotion.

To establish a reusable model system, consumer support and social propaganda and education are crucial. In the roundtable discussion on consumer advocacy during the forum, representatives from enterprises, media, third-party organizations, and consumer shared their views on the impact of consumers on enterprises, challenges in promoting reusable models, and consumer advocacy strategies. Participants generally agreed that consumer advocacy should start with small environmental actions and encouraged enterprises to invest in the development of reusable models through green competition.

Takeout Reusable Packaging

In 2021, the scale of China's takeaway market reached a trillion yuan, and by 2025, the conservative estimate is that the economic scale will exceed 1.5 trillion yuan.

Ding Yi, Project Manager of Plastic Free China, shared the "Case Study Report on Reusable Packaging for Catering Takeout." The report envisions a scenario where consumers can easily buy coffee drinks in "reusable cups" and order takeout with "reusable meal boxes" that are both sealable, insulated, support point-to-point return, and have a unified cleaning process.

If such a beautiful scene becomes a reality, consumers can earn carbon credits or receive price discounts. The environmental performance of catering enterprises will also be more impressive, making reusable systems a new economic growth point that benefits the environment, consumers, businesses, and the government.

How to make this beautiful vision a reality? Ding Yi, looking to the future, pointed out that under the development opportunities driven by policy incentives, it is necessary to connect key nodes during the whole delivery procedure, improve information transparency and management effectiveness through digital tools, and promote the development of reusable models by combining companies’ ESG localization.

Addressing the most concerned issue for consumers, the hygiene of reusable tableware, Vivian Hui, Senior Manager of Corporate Sustainable Development at foodpanda Hong Kong, shared insights and practical solutions based on the one-year experience of the "Takeout Reusable Tableware Program."

For the practice of reusable cups in domestic enterprises, Zhou Xiaochi, Founder of Yuansu Coffee, discussed the feasibility of creating a coffee space, establishing a membership system, and combining a reusable cup system from the perspective of circular costs.

"When consumers understand the purpose and significance of reusable cups, 84.8% of respondents are willing to use reusable cups, reflecting high consumer acceptance of innovative environmental protection measures," said Xu Minghan, Director of Innovative Projects at Impact Hub Shanghai, after sharing a case study on reusable cup experiments.

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