The Chinese government has issued a set of standards to promote the use of sustainable packaging materials in the logistics industry, where companies including Alibaba-backed Cainiao,, and SF Express serve millions of online shoppers every day.

The standards were issued in a meeting of senior post office officials, in which State Post Bureau Director-General Ma Junsheng presided over the passing of a series of guidelines, including those aimed at setting up national standards for green packaging in the express industry.

During China’s 2018 Double 11 shopping festival—held on November 11 every year—nearly 2 billion packages were delivered in the 10 days following the event, a 25% increase from 2017.

In the leadup to Double 11 last year, environmental organization Greenpeace said less than 10% of packaging material in China gets recycled. The country faced 160,000 tonnes of packaging waste after the 2017 event.

At the postal meeting, Ma said a green revolution is a “political task,” dictated by the central government and echoing down to industry players. The government will now encourage Chinese express companies to replace disposable woven plastic bags with sustainable packaging material, which can be recycled more than 20 times.

The proliferation of single-use packaging has increased rapidly alongside the development of China’s e-commerce industry. So far, Alibaba’s logistics affiliate Cainiao claims to have developed the most advanced lightweight express mail package design and cutting solution in the industry.

The company says it could reduce the use of packaging materials by 15%. The logistics firm announced earlier this year it had implemented the solution on 260 million boxes and bags for delivery, resulting in a reduction of 75 million paper boxes in 2017.

“Chinese new retail, along with logistics and food delivery, should be led to new models of sustainability,” Zhang Chunhui, head of Cainiao’s ET Logistics Lab, said publicly at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai earlier this year. He added that the market size of Chinese e-commerce has grown at a rate of at least 20% year-on-year, and the number of parcels has increased as a result.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @jill_shen_sh

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