As e-commerce continues to thrive, the packaging industry faces increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact. Many consumers and companies are seeking eco-friendly alternatives to traditional single-use cardboard boxes, and German startup rhinopaq is providing a solution.
Rhinopaq offers a range of reusable polypropylene (PP) shipping boxes for e-commerce companies. These mono-material boxes are durable, water-resistant, and entirely recyclable. After approximately 20 uses, the boxes are retired and recycled to create new ones, reducing waste and environmental impact.
While the initial production of the PP boxes generates more carbon emissions compared to disposable cardboard, they quickly become a greener option after multiple uses. Rhinopaq co-founder Marc Diefenbach noted that after the third use, the PP boxes emit fewer CO2 emissions than creating three new single-use packages. The company’s aim is to maximize the number of uses to enhance sustainability.
One challenge the company has faced is transitioning the boxes from a durable shipping state to a flat, recirculated state. Rhinopaq is using QR codes inside the boxes to track their usage, allowing consumers to see how many cycles a package has been through and learn about its history.
Rhinopaq is working with various online stores, offering customers the option to receive their orders in these reusable packages. The concept resonates with environmentally-conscious consumers and helps promote sustainability.
One of rhinopaq’s customers, soulely.de, supplies cloth diapers to its customers. The durable packaging aligns well with reusable diaper products. Philipp Bettinger, co-founder of soulely.de, noted that customers are impressed when they can choose a reusable package for their orders.
However, the reusable packaging market is still relatively small, with disposable packaging being the cheaper and more prevalent option. Entrepreneurs and companies entering this niche industry often face difficulties in competing during the initial stages. As they accumulate more reuses, cost savings become apparent, but the transition can be challenging.
Nevertheless, there is hope on the horizon for sustainable packaging in Europe. The European Commission has proposed a revision to its Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which aims to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030. This directive may encourage the adoption of sustainable packaging models.
The reusable packaging sector, while small, shows potential for growth. Companies like Loop and pioneers like Boox and Returnity are contributing to the expansion of this market. Rhinopaq, once a small startup operating from a living room, now has approximately 5,000 packages in circulation and is poised for further growth.
Diefenbach’s advice to those looking to enter this field is to be patient and understand that the transition to reusable packaging takes time. As regulators drive sustainability initiatives and both consumers and businesses become more aware of the environmental impact of packaging, the industry is likely to evolve toward more eco-friendly options.