As the number of online purchases continue to increase in recent years, an increasing number of consumers are making their purchases on internet platforms and getting them physically delivered to their homes. Through this investigation, the DAB hopes to learn the habits of online shoppers and whether there is excessive packaging for online purchases.
Objects of investigation: Two local and one Mainland online shopping websites: (HKTVmall and Zalora locally, Taobao on the Mainland).
Sampling method: Choosing popular items on online shopping platforms
Investigation period︰ May-June 2017
Summary of Investigation results
(1) The three different websites had different levels of excessive over-packaging that mostly are repetitive packaging.
(2) Materials used in excessive packaging include cardboard and plastic bags.
(3) The problem of excessive over-packaging was most severe for the Mainland website. The main reason being that as purchases in Hong Kong have to be shipped across the border, sellers try to protect the items from damage by wrapping each purchase with both a cardboard box and then wrap this box with plastic bags.
(4) The local online shopping websites generally do not require purchases to be wrapped in cardboard or plastic. Occasionally an item was wrapped with extraneous plastic. The issue of excessive over-packaging is less severe for the local platforms.
(5) If goods are cooperatively transported, there will be a greater number of excess plastic and cardboard.
Even though online shopping can help a consumer save time and is very efficient and convenient, businesses and transport companies have used excessive over-packaging that is bad for the environment. Superfluous packaging is then discarded and add to the burden of landfills. The DAB has the following suggestions for this state of affairs:
(1) The government should strengthen publicity and education on the issue and teach residents about the environmental harm that may come from excessive online shopping. Help customers develop environmental consciousness and do their online shopping on environmentally friendly online shopping platforms instead.
(2) The government should consider promoting an “appropriate packaging charter” and encourage businesses and transportation companies to only use appropriate packaging and cut down on waste.
(3) The government should look into the experiences of other countries on this issue and do research on whether a law banning excessive over-packaging is necessary.
(4) The government should improve its waste disposal policy and increase the number of recycling facilities both within districts and in businesses. They should strengthen the work on recycling and work on effectively solving the issue of excessive over-packaging and the waste it produces.
(5) The DAB will make a proposal on this issue in the “Two Sessions” in Beijing next year. We propose the Mainland government to take the issue of excessive over-packaging of online purchases more seriously and to proactively cooperate with businesses and consumers to deliver the mindset of an environmentally conscious shopper.
Legislative Councilor Gary Chan (7770-0829)