The Action Plan for Advancing the Green Transformation of Express Packaging


The Action Plan for Advancing the Green Transformation of Express Packaging 深入推进快递包装绿色转型行动方案 issued by the NDRC and other 7 ministries came into effect on November 23rd. It aims to improve the standardization, recyclability, reduction, and ‘harmlessness’ of express packaging.

The Action Plan sets several goals to be achieved by 2025: (1) comprehensively establish a green express packaging standards system, (2) comprehensively enforce the ban on toxic and harmful express packaging, (3) effectively standardize management in the express delivery industry, (4) significantly increase awareness of reducing packaging in the e-commerce and express delivery industries and cultivate a batch of representative enterprises, (5) major e-commerce companies substantially reduce excessive packaging, and (6) 10% of intracity deliveries should use recyclable express packaging (REP) [1] and expand the scale of reusing old carboard boxes[2].

Previously, the Opinions on Accelerating the Green Transformation of Express Packaging 关于加快推进快递包装绿色转型意见, set a goal of utilizing 7 million and 10 million REP boxes by 2022 and 2025 respectively. However, this goal was achieved three years earlier than expected, with 11.73 million REP boxes already in use by 2022. But the volume of express delivery increased faster, amounting to 110.58 billion pieces of parcels in 2022, a 2.1% growth compared to 2021. Therefore, the proportion of REP remains very low. To address this issue, the new Action Plan proposes that 10% of intracity deliveries should use REP by 2025. Additionally, the Action Plan introduces some measures including encouraging enterprises to create deposit return system and other mechanisms to guide consumers to voluntarily return the recyclable packaging boxes and offer consumers the option of selecting recyclable packaging when placing orders. However, the cost of REP is quite high, 15-20 times higher than regular cardboard boxes and there are additional operation costs, such as recycling and cleaning costs. Furthermore, it is difficult to change  consumer behavior in a short time. Some consumers perceive the utilization of REP as ‘showmanship’ with little significance, while others express concern about the cleanliness and sturdiness of REPs after multiple uses[3].

In addition, the previous Opinions highlighted the importance to reduce express packaging but did not propose any specific measures. Currently, express packaging has significant environmental impacts, generating 9 million tons of wastepaper and 1.8 million tons of plastic garbage annually. Furthermore, according to an official survey, 80.7% of consumers object to excessive packaging[4]. To address this issue, the new Action Plan introduces several specific policy guidelines, including (1) guide e-commerce companies to set packaging reduction goals, (2) accelerate the formulation and implementation of mandatory standards to restrict excessive packaging, and (3) guide and supervise enterprises to produce and package products complying with the mandatory standards. However, the issue of violent sorting during the delivery process raises concerns about potential product damage when using less packaging[5].


[1] Recyclable express packaging refers to boxes that can be reused multiple times for their original purpose of design and are usually owned by manufacturers or courier companies.

[2] NDRC. (2023, December 15). 国家发展改革委等部门关于印发《深入推进快递包装绿色转型行动方案》的通知。[The notice from the NDRC and some other ministries on issuing the Action Plan for Advancing the Green Transformation of Express Packaging.]

[3] Anhui Daily. (2022, July 14). 快递可循环包装 如何真正循环起来。[How to make recyclable express packaging be recycled? ]

[4] Xie, Y. (2023, April 3). 中消协发布调查报告:八成消费者反对过度包装。[The China Consumers Association released a report, revealing that 80% of consumers oppose excessive packaging.]

[5] Ji, L. (2023, December 25). 有效推进快递包装绿色转型。 [Effectively promoting the green transformation of express packaging.] Economic Daily.