What are circular deliveries?

For a long time, the flow of materials and products around the world has been very one way.

Resources are taken from the Earth, made into something valuable, consumed and then discarded as waste – this has been the lifecycle of most things since the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.

We’ll spare you the history lesson on this one and jump to the main point: this linear model that’s today our norm is very bad news for the planet. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s one of the big reasons why we’re in this great mess.

And then we have what's known as the circular economy.

If we think of our traditional linear model as a line with ‘take’ at one end and ‘dispose’ at the other, the circular economy takes that awful line and turns it into a lovely circle. The circular economy is all about keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them while in use, and then recovering and regenerating them at the end of their life.

That’s all very interesting, but why are we talking about it?

Because the delivery world is a great example of a linear industry that needs to be a lot more circular.

Our packaging problem

In Europe, one person generates almost 180 kg of packaging waste every year on average (more than double the weight of the average European!), and the rise and rise of e-commerce is only pushing that figure up. That’s because, almost every time, the packaging our parcels arrive to us in has one final destination: the bin.

Instead, why can’t we simply give that perfectly good packaging back to the courier and back to the brand it came from? It can then be used again (and again) and we can slash demand for single-use packaging. Well, it’s not that simple, but we definitely can. In fact, we’ve been working on it.

We’ve run reusable packaging trials with several Packfleet merchants – using everything from crates instead of cardboard boxes, to washable glass bottles for liquids. Reconstructing the process into a nice circular shape, we’ve paired these greener packaging alternatives with matched delivery and collection windows and an easy, efficient way for recipients to make bookings.

We’ve got plenty of work to do if we’re to push this into the mainstream. But when we do, it will change both deliveries and packaging forever.

Circular deliveries – a work-in-progress

At its core, the circular deliveries concept is all about making the delivery process more sustainable by reducing waste, lowering CO2 emissions and conserving resources better. So, there’s far more to it than throwing less packaging in the bin.

Circular deliveries also means optimising delivery routes to save energy, and using electric or low-emission vehicles to reduce pollution.

With the volume of packages arriving through doors definitely not going down, we have to make sure that the impact of delivering goods does.

Circular deliveries is an approach that’s moving from aspiration to work-in-progress. With enough effort, brains and care, we can make it the norm – just like we made linear deliveries the norm all of those years ago.