Zalando tackles plastic waste with reusable packaging

Zalando plans to test a more eco-friendly approach to packaging customers' orders.

Zalando is the latest fashion giant to explore the concept of reusable packaging.

The online retail platform has announced plans to launch a four-week pilot that will use reusable packaging for customers' orders in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The packaging, which can be used multiple times for shipping and returns, comes courtesy of Finnish startup RePack.

The concept relies on shoppers returning the packaging to Zalando once they have received their order, even if they decide to keep all their purchases, but Zalando hopes that the initiative will appeal to customers trying to reduce their plastic waste. Shoppers will be asked to fold up the envelope and put it into the mailbox with a returns label attached, whereby it will be delivered to a fulfillment center.

"To make the concept of reusable packaging scalable, the entire e-commerce industry is needed," said Uwe Streiber, Team Warehouse Consumables at Zalando, in a statement. "It requires standardized processes and centralized delivery options for reusable packaging. Reusable packaging transforms material from waste to resource. A uniform system in which customers can return the packaging, for example to the supermarket, would make it easier for everyone."

Sustainable packaging has become an important area of focus across the fashion industry lately. In August the Canadian footwear and accessories empire Aldo Group announced plans to phase out single-use shopping bags, replacing them with a shoebox made from recycled cardboard, featuring a practical rope handle. In July, the Japanese fashion and lifestyle brand Muji announced a new reusable bag initiative encouraging shoppers in the US to use their own bags by introducing a charge for reusable bags, and the British label Burberry pledged earlier this year to "reduce, eliminate and transition away from problematic and unnecessary packaging" across its portfolio by the year 2025, with a focus on single-use plastics.