As another record-breaking Singles Day unfolded Monday – sales on Tmall alone hit 10 billion yuan in little over 90 seconds – three environmental NGOs have highlighted the issue of the packaging waste generated by such events.

Greenpeace East Asia, Break Free from Plastic China and the All-China Environment Federation co-released a report yesterday to point up the 9.4 million tons of packaging materials used during 2018 by the country’s e-commerce and express delivery ‘kuaidi’ industries.

The report notes how, in 2018, the average person in China received or sent 36 packages via express delivery services, compared to 0.01 packages in 2000. Last year Singles Day (or Double Eleven) saw more than one billion parcels sent; the final number this year was 1.29 billion, says Alibaba.

The country’s unofficial recycling network – trash pickers, cleaners, and roaming recyclers – dominate the recycling of paper-based packaging, the report said, while paper box recovery initiatives set up by express delivery companies are largely inefficient and plastic packaging is not recycled 99% of the time.

Chris Tung, CMO of Alibaba, told WARC that “we feel obligated [to take action] as the number of parcels goes up … so this year we have been focusing a lot on making Double Eleven greener.”

This, he explained, involves the creation 75,000 permanent recycling stations nationally to recycle cardboard and reduce the impact of consumption.

“We can make it a program not only for Double Eleven, but a call for action for the whole year round as a sustainability effort, as we are riding on top of the awareness of Double Eleven,” he added.

And he claimed a great response from shoppers. “They love it. They feel great that they can help us do that.”

Alibaba also announced it has successfully reduced energy consumption through self-developed green technologies. It claims the power consumption for every 10,000 e-commerce transactions will be reduced to as low as 2kWh by immersing its servers into a special liquid coolant. As a result, it is expected that data centre energy consumption can be reduced by as much as 70%.

Tmall will also host trade-in programs to allow consumers to replace over 40,000 used electrical products from 250 brands for new ones.

Sourced from Greenpeace; additional content by WARC staff