14K petitioners urge Shopee and Lazada: ‘reveal, reduce and redesign’ packaging

Over 14,000 individuals, including environmentalists and online sellers, have signed a petition demanding e-commerce giants Shopee and Lazada to adopt zero-waste initiatives ahead of online holiday sales. 

In an online press conference on Sept. 8, environmental groups including Greenpeace and Youth Strike for Climate Philippines urged the two companies to reduce unnecessary plastic, redesign existing packaging schemes and reveal data on e-commerce waste. 

“What we have now is a perfect storm of incoming holidays, the persistence of the pandemic and the burden that these events produce to our planet in terms of packaging waste,” Greenpeace e-commerce campaigner Jefferson Chua said.

The 9.9 sale, which started yesterday, Sept. 9, is one of Southeast Asia’s largest shopping holidays, opening doors for the e-commerce industry’s massive year-end sales. 

In December 2020, Lazada doubled its sales from 2019. Meanwhile, Shopee sold 12 million items in the first 24 minutes of their 12.12 holiday sale. 

Consumer data company Statista foresees that the Philippines is set to reach nearly 55.8 million e-commerce users by 2025. 

Missing data

Noting data from independent research on the rise of e-commerce buyers, the petitioners called on Shopee and Lazada to come clean about their waste statistics.

READ: Ready to add to cart? How online shopping creates a ‘silent plastic problem’

“[The] figures point to an astounding–and unsustainable–rise in plastic packaging. And yet, there’s no public data of exactly how much waste these companies produce. Neither are there any commitments whatsoever to reduce this,” said Marian Ledesma, Greenpeace zero-waste campaigner. 

Greenpeace cites a 2021 Shopify report that revealed online consumers around the world are ready to make the eco-friendly switch, with 50% willing to pay more for “environmentally-friendly” products or services. 

While Chua concedes that sustainable packaging may affect sellers and logistics providers, he said e-commerce giants must set policies “that ensure the rational reduction of unnecessary plastic packaging.” This entails company-wide changes that discourage excessive plastic use. 

“Consumers have noted that some parcels do not warrant excessive bubble wrap which have no use,” the petition read. 

Environmental groups also urged Lazada and Shopee to “improve [their] delivery systems by adopting sustainable alternatives” such as reusable and returnable packaging. 

Initiatives such as The Plastic Flamingo, The Plastic Solution and The E-Waste Project have sprung up in response to the plastic packaging crisis. Buyers can donate online shopping bags to these organizations to be repurposed. 

However, environmentalists assert that the e-commerce waste problem cannot be unpacked only at a consumer level. 

“While buyers have the responsibility in disposing our waste properly, these large companies who do have the capital and the resources to be more sustainable cannot and should not pass it all to the consumers,” Chua said. 

As online stores outsell physical markets, environmentalists hope they would heed calls to “lead the way in providing Filipinos with a better normal e-commerce experience.” 

“Filipino taxpayers actually pay for the cost of e-commerce waste,” Chua said. “These companies need to come clean, take responsibility and do their part to ensure their businesses do not continue to create pollution.”