The logistics of returns in e-commerce – time for reusable courier packaging 

When you think of reusable packaging, you probably imagine a crate, container or special suitcase. However, reusable packaging can also be an ordinary cardboard box. Interestingly, it can be used as is. The only important things are its design and size.  

A reusable product is an item that can be used more than once. Subsequent uses do not have to be in accordance with the product’s original purpose, e.g. a metal candy box is good storage for sewing supplies. The same may apply to reusable packaging. 

Green E-commerce Returns

In the early days of e-commerce, returns required so much effort that it was easier to give up and keep the product rather than send it back. Today everything has changed. Companies that understand that well-handled returns drive sales, attach a pre-printed return address label to the product package. It was started, and is still mostly used, by companies in the clothing industry. All you have to do is to register on the store’s website your intention to return the goods, stick the label on the package and wait for the courier to pick it up. Of course, delivery and return are usually free of charge. 

When you need to pack the products to be returned, just reach for the package in which they were delivered. The box is designed in such a way that it can be resealed using a piece of adhesive tape. How is this possible? The clue is in the planning. 

Match the cardboard box to the shipment 

What makes it possible to reuse cardboard packaging is primarily how it is made. The box should be designed in such a way that you can open it without damaging or deforming it. The use of staples or wrapping the whole package with film is history for returnable packaging. The most convenient way of closing boxes are glue strips. You do not need any tools to open the box and you are doing it in exactly the way the seller planned. The second factor which helps the box be reusable is its proper size. The goods cannot move freely inside it, nor be pressed forcibly. In both cases, there is a risk of destroying the packaging and damaging its contents. You may always use fillers to fill in void spaces in an oversized box, but it is very environmentally unfriendly.  

To design optimal sized boxes, you may benefit from using loading optimization software. For example, the Find a Box Size. Just enter the dimensions (and possibly weight) of the goods into the application to get immediate feedback on the size of the proper container. Automation of calculations of packaging sizes is beneficial for you while outsourcing the production of appropriate containers and/or selecting them from your own stocks. 

UPS is testing Loops

It is worth mentioning that UPS is testing a new insight in packaging for e-commerce which may set new trends. The American courier giant announced in 2019 tests of a reusable courier package called Loop. The collapsible, insulated box is made by the specialist recycling company TerraCycle. The packaging, without additional fillers, protects the products against mechanical damage and sudden temperature changes. The premise of the correct operation of Loops is the use of the reusable original packaging for returns. 

An alternative to reusable packaging are boxes made of recyclable or fully biodegradable materials. Another popular idea is to create packaging that can be reused as storage boxes or material to make simple toys for children. Such solutions are intended to limit the growth of the waste mountain that ends up not only in landfill, but also in rivers, oceans, forests and is even buried deep in the earth.