How can we solve the problem of increasing packaging waste caused by e-commerce? In 2018 we started in a team of six to take on that challenge supported by a fellowship program of the Social Entrepreneurship Academy in Munich, Germany. We bring in diverse backgrounds and perspectives ranging from data science, engineering, web and graphics design to business, economics, and political science. Our common passion is to develop solutions for our society’s problems and challenges using an entrepreneurial approach.
Throughout the course we intensively worked on the idea of establishing a multiple-use system for e-commerce packaging boxes. We dived deep into the research of e-commerce logistics, took on the roles of the sender, receiver and even parcel deliverer, and worked on the perfect reusable shipping box. The high-tech multi-use packaging prototypes were very impressive, but would require a lot more resources for production than conventional packaging and therefore many more lifecycles.
We had to make sure that we find the most impactful – not the most fancy – solution. So while we did our prototyping of the reusable box we always came back to realizing that the conventional cardboard box was not so bad after all: The decisive criteria are lightweight, robust, an economic price, and space-saving storage. Finally we had to ask ourselves: Is there really a need for another packaging solution? What if we could even use that conventional box for a multiple-use system? We had become a great team and were eager to test that idea in real conditions.
We launched our WeRePack Experiment in spring and summer 2019 with the question: How many shipping cycles could a conventional cardboard box take?
We sent our box on a journey throughout Germany to find out.
We bought postage, involved friends and family and sent our box from Munich to Berlin, from east to west, from north to south. And the box could easily withstand 10 cycles. We realized that even the conventional cardboard box’s quality is way too good to simply throw it away after using it only once. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be 10 times but even 2 or 3 cycles have the potential to reduce the packaging waste significantly!
Furthermore, in our surveys, many customers confirmed that they are annoyed by packing waste and they would appreciate it if their delivery came in pre-used packages. So our idea for the WeRePack was born: a concept and initiative that raises awareness and provides concrete guidance to shop owners and customers, for instance by implementing a multiple-use shipment system into e-commerce with our WeRePack plugin.
We work on Impact
Thanks to participating websites that regularly share the number of their approvals for a reused packaging with us, we can roughly measure the ongoing impact of the initiative.