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The Story of RePack: Circular Packaging

The Story of RePack: Circular Packaging

Packaging. You either love it, or hate it, or you’re indifferent about it. But regardless of your sentiment towards it, it’s a really important part of any brand experience and product delivery.

If the only contact you have with a brand is via their website and social media, every image and every word must convey their story, their philosophy, their attitude and their purpose. And, if as a customer, you believe in their offering, you might make it through their shopping cart to purchase one of their products. Your next point of contact—aside from delivery updates—will be when you receive your purchase. And more than ever, this experience is becoming akin to receiving a gift from a friend.

At the beginning of the JEANBAG journey, before launching our e-commerce website, I had to design all our packaging and think through not only the technical aspects (packaging materials, the inclusion of product information, the size and weight of each package to make shipping affordable), but also how it looks and feels and what story it tells you about our purpose.

While our product packaging is made from 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard and paper and we use cotton tape in our gift-wrapping, I also wanted our satchels to be made from recycled materials and be recyclable. We use waterproof satchels for shipping, simply due to the nature of transit, but again, I wanted to find a solution that was kinder to the planet than one-use satchels. I didn’t find any. And, I still haven’t. At least not in Australia.

However, during my research, I discovered a little company starting up in Helsinki, Finland and I want to share their story with you. A company which has continued to grow and win some prestigious awards along the way. A company started by Jonne Hellgren, Juha Mäkelä and Petri Piirainen called RePack.

RePack is an all inclusive circular packaging service, who’s mission is to keep packaging used in online shopping transactions in circulation and out of landfill. The inspiration came to Juha, while he was an exchange student in Denmark in the early ’90s. Back then, Denmark had a bottle return system, where if you returned three empty beer bottles, you’d get a free beer. Nice!

RePack’s reusable packaging works on the same principle. When you shop with a participating e-commerce business, you pay a deposit (say 2 euros, depending on the product) to have your online purchase delivered in a reusable bag. Instead of throwing away the packaging, you drop it into the nearest mailbox and get your deposit back as a voucher (of the same value or more), redeemable at the online store where you shopped in the first place.

This type of returns system has a really high rate of participation as it not only gives you an incentive—the voucher—but the understanding that there’s a value attached to the item you’re returning—the packaging. It makes you feel like you’re part of the solution, taking direct responsibility for your actions. It’s gives you the chance to show how you feel in relation to your environment, what’s important to you and allows you to contribute to making positive change.

So how long do RePack reusable satchels last and what happens after they’ve reached the end of their life? RePack’s can be reused up to 20 times (some have been used up to 50 times) meaning their carbon footprint is around 80% less than that of standard packaging companies. They’re made from recycled polypropylene, which is also 100% recyclable and that’s exactly what happens to them at the end of their run.

I would love to use RePack in our business. However, it’s not yet available in Australia. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work and development to bring an idea like this to life. While it is scalable, participating businesses are based in Europe. But, with 50,000 RePack transactions made to date, I’m hopeful their growth will be exponential and make it to our shores in the not too distant future.

As online sales grow, unfortunately the amount of packaging grows with it. While lot of packaging is recyclable, breaking down and re-making materials still uses energy and generates waste. At the end of the day, our focus still needs to be on consuming less and finding innovative ways to reuse more.

To learn more about RePack, head to their website. While there, check out the amazing businesses offering RePack as one of the packaging options in their online stores. If these businesses ship internationally, you’ll be able to select their RePack shipping option no matter where you live.

x KT

Post Note: We talked to Sendle about this option and they actually have it on their drawing board. Maybe some day soon, we'll see it come to life! 

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