New recycling bags designed to address the environmental impact of Alibaba’s “Singles’ Day”

Records are there to be broken. This saying is still true when it comes to China’s Singles’ Day, an online retail carnival that sweeps across the country every November 11. This year is no exception. Chinese e-commerce giants like Alibaba, JD.com, and Suning have all declared unprecedented sales performances. Alibaba set a new record with sales for $30 billion in 24 hours, and furthermore sales surpassed 10 billion yuan ($ 1.44 billion) within two minutes and five seconds of midnight, soaring past last year’s record of three minutes and one second.

This year’s retail blitz also sets a new milestone for China’s express logistics industry. According to the predictions of the State Post Bureau, the amount of packages for the Singles’ Day will reach 1.87 billion, up 25% from a year ago. Alibaba said that logistics orders on its platform exceeded 1 billion, manifesting a new age for China’s express industry. While some are cheering these amazing achievements, others are deeply concerned about the accompanying plastic waste and its environmental impact.

A new social enterprise called Vloop is attempting to address this issue. Wang Xi, the founder of Vloop, was recently interviewed by China’s Charity Times. In the interview, he explains that Vloop is designed to provide a practical and environmentally friendly path to address this environmental issue. The company has created a recycled eco-bag named the Vloop bag. Wang explains that Vloop encourages people not to discard Vloop bags after their use, but to return them at the nearest Vloop returning box. When the returning box is full, the staff will collect all the bags in one specific place to sterilize them and send them back to the sellers. Damaged bags will also be collected, either as a new material for reprocessing or to be safely returned to nature under composting conditions. In the Vloop recycling mode, consumers need to make a deposit of 9.99 yuan and pay 0.5 yuan as a usage fee every time they return a bag.

Wang stresses that each Vloop bag can be used about 30-50 times, which means that they are made from better materials than the ordinary plastic bags and have far better quality. The message that Vloop wants to convey is that environmental protection costs money. As a social enterprise, while promoting its recycling mode, it is extending responsibility to consumers. The money that consumers pay for the bags may make them understand how much they have actually engaged, and to what extent they contribute to environmental protection, says Wang. After all, “environmental protection is every citizen’s responsibility.” According to Wang, there were 40 billion packages in 2017 in China, and half of those were plastic bags. While 97% of cartons can be recycled, tape and plastic bags remain severe sources of pollution. A small-sized plastic bag may only cost a few cents, but the cost of disposal can be immense.

Vloop has held promotional activities in 11 university campuses and recruited about 200 volunteers. It has also invited 100 e-commerce sellers to take part in making the Vloop bags more widely known.

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