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Shipping copies the car

The customer wants a new pulse counter because the old one – like many of its predecessors – has left after two years of use. The desired model is not in stock in the store. But he can order the product and send it to him by post, says the seller; shipping costs are included. The customer pays in cash.

Three days later, the customer finds a package in the milk box, 35 centimetres long, 24 centimetres wide, 15 centimetres high and child’s play. In it, he notes when unpacking, there is all sorts of paper and a second, half as long and wide package. And in the second package, neatly rolled up, a pulse belt and a pulse watch, the latter 4 centimeters high and 3 centimeters wide; less than 50 grams heavy.

On one of the papers, the address of the delivery company, if the customer wants to return the package, on another the indication that the return shipment is “chargeable”. Luckily for him and the overloaded postmen this time, this is not necessary, the test of the product shows: After 15 seconds of operation, the device marks 70 heartbeats per minute, slightly more than usual, but this is not surprising, because consumption makes you nervous. A fetel (see above) completes the purchase process.

Like the customer writing here, thousands of consumers are likely to be affected on this and other days. Online retail is booming, as is van traffic, further encouraged by the Christmas season and corona-related restricted shop opening hours. Because cardboard and transport are ridiculously cheap, oversized packaging only marginally reduces the business of mail order. Even consumers are not struck by inefficiency, because the carton collection is free in most municipalities.

Waste is reflected in the statistics: the quantity and proportion of cartons in waste have increased sharply in the last ten years and especially in the Corona year 2020. This is due to the fact that most packaging ends up in the garbage or in the carton collection after shipment. One of the few exceptions is the ecologically conscious wine trading company Delinat; it takes back its robust carton packaging, with which it delivers its organic wine to households, and uses it several times.

With its inefficient packaging, mail order is following in the footsteps of car traffic. There, the packaging – in the form of iron, sheet metal, plastic and textiles – is also much more extensive and, with an average weight of 1.7 tonnes, ten to twenty times more weight than the contents in the form of only one person. There is a difference, after all, that not every package needs its own engine, at least as long as the parcels are transported in vans. However, the switch to drones can change that.