Makia isn’t just thinking outside the box, it’s throwing it out altogether.
In lieu of the usual cardboard trappings, the Finish apparel label will now deliver its online orders in glossy black-and-yellow envelopes made from recycled polypropylene. The move isn’t so much an aesthetic choice as it is an environmental one. Makia is working with RePack, a Helsinki-based reusable packaging service whose “packs” are made to be used and reused at least 20 times.
There’s a good reason for that. As gratifying as e-commerce may be for our overscheduled lives, it also generates an outrageous amount of trash. Think of how many times you’ve received a USB stick or a pair of socks swaddled in plastic and paper like it was Ming China.
Amazon, the internet’s favorite retailer, said it shipped more than 5 billion items for Prime members in 2017 alone. That’s a lot of padded mailers, corrugated fiberboard, shrink wrap and bouncy air pillows. With global e-commerce sales projected to soar to $4.5 trillion by 2021, according to Shopify, all that packaging waste is only going to pile up.
Besides Makia, RePack partners with some 40 brands, including MUD Jeans and Filippa K, across 10 countries. Each of the bags cost about two to three euros, which brands can choose to either absorb themselves or present as an option that customers can pay for. Scandinavian Outdoor, Finland’s biggest outdoor retailer, provides the bag for free with orders of 99 euros or more, which the company told RePack has driven up the number of sales above this threshold by 30 percent.
How the system works requires almost zero effort, both for the brand and the consumer. All customers have to do once they receive their RePack is fold the envelope to reveal the prepaid shipping label and drop it off at the nearest mail-collection box. To incentivize returns, some brands, including Makia, offer discounts that can be applied to future purchases. Tracking, voucher handling and analytics are all handled by RePack, which received the 2017 Nordic Council Environment Prize for its efforts.
“This process will greatly reduce the amount of packaging trash and hopefully inspire our customers into more mindful consumption,” Makia wrote on its website.
But all good things must come to an end, so RePack is experimenting with uses for its retired envelopes. Among some of the prototypes its head designer has developed is a backpack that combines an “almost worthless material” with leather and wool felt.
Repack says it will kick off production for the backpacks sometime this year. “Later on, there will also be shoulder bags and tote bags,” it added in a blog post.