We will identify sustainable alternatives to plastic and non-recyclable packaging as we build the sustainable future of retail. In 2020 we shipped approximately 239 million packages, which makes identifying more sustainable alternatives to plastic and non-recyclable packaging a critical opportunity for us, our customers and our environment. Given the lack of a scalable alternative, we have committed to a phased approach toward full recyclability, including:
- Switching to post-consumer recycled content as much as possible,
- Reducing the average emissions intensity of our packages by reducing the overall amount of packaging used,
- Increasing the recyclability of our packaging,
- Implementing waste reduction initiatives at our fulfillment centers, and
- Using our platforms to educate consumers on recycling practices, including partnering with including partnering with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and implementing/utilizing the How2Recycle label in the US.
Our Sustainable Packaging Work Group has set the following Sustainable Packaging Goals & Targets, which you can learn more about by clicking on each of the targets listed below.
- Improve Carbon Footprint Through Source Reduction
- Improve Customer Education on Recyclability of QRG Packaging
- Increase the Recyclability of QRG Packaging
- Use Recycled Content in QRG Packaging
- Increase On-site Packaging Recycling
Improve Carbon Footprint Through Source Reduction
Reduce the average emissions intensity per package shipped by 5% compared to a 2018 baseline by 2022
We are always looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint when shipping our products to our customers and we are well on our way to achieving this goal. For QVC US and HSN we continually focus on using “right-sized” packaging where possible, to minimize the amount of materials we use to ship products. We do this by encouraging our suppliers to ship product to us in re-shippable boxes that do not require additional packaging to ship to the customer and by consolidating customer orders where possible to ship multiple orders in one package. In 2020, QVC Germany eliminated the use of program guide inserts, and in the US, QVC and HSN have eliminated marketing materials, promotional inserts and program guides in our packages as we move toward sharing information electronically. Additionally, several markets have made strides and will continue to make changes in reducing the thickness or sizing of packaging materials, while still protecting the product shipped to our customers.
We are proud to announce our most recent partnership with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle® label program, enabling our customers in the US to make more informed decisions around how to best dispose of the packaging their purchases come in. We began imprinting a new label on much of the packaging added in our QVC US, HSN and Zulily fulfillment centers, and this new information will make it easier for customers to determine how to best recycle that particular packages’ material. In 2020, we surveyed a cross-section of our QVC US and HSN customers, and learned that while over 70% of these customers primarily recycle plastic, paper, and cardboard through curbside recycling, only 25% consistently bring plastic/polybags to a store and less than 20% bring them to their local recycling center. In 2021, we will expand our focus on customer education to optimize the amount of our packaging that gets recycled. This initiative is part of our company’s greater commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen throughout our operations and we’re excited to have our customers join this part of our sustainability journey.
We have several exciting initiatives completed and underway as it relates to increasing the recyclability of our packaging. Much of the tape we use for our corrugated boxes at QVC US and HSN has moved from plastic-based tape to water activated tape. This means customers do not have to remove the tape from the box before recycling it. In addition, we no longer add packing peanuts to shipments packed in our fulfillment centers.
Did you know if there is a label on a plastic polybag, you have to remove or cut out the label before recycling it? Given this, QVC US is printing shipping information directly on our polybags (versus using a label) in some of our fulfillment centers and are looking to increase this capability over time. Several of our markets are also planning to transition from using bags made with multiple materials (e.g. jiffy bags with paper fiber on the outside and plastic bubbles on the inside) to a recyclable bag that is made from a single-material (e.g. a bag made out of kraft paper that has a paper liner). Our QVC team in the UK is transitioning from their current non-recyclable jiffy mailer to a fully recyclable version, and they are also busy implementing initiatives to utilize jewelry pouches made from recycled plastic.
We are also proud to say we continue to invest labor to reuse packaging where possible from returned product. For example, our team in QVC Germany reuses shoe boxes that have not been damaged that come back from returned products, and the QVC team in the US does the same thing with jewelry presentation cases.
Use Recycled Content in QRG Packaging
Increase the average % of recycled content by the following percentages for outbound over packaging by 2025
- 30% increase in recycled content in outbound fiber materials
- 25% increase in recycled content in plastics
Increase the amount of recycled content for proprietary brands to the following minimum percentages by 2030
- 60% recycled content in fiber materials
- 30% recycled content in plastics
This is an area that will continue to evolve as we investigate new packaging solutions, strengthen our external partnerships and share our Sustainable Packaging Goals & Targets with our packaging suppliers. In the US, QVC’s proprietary brands have switched from using apparel polybags (the clear plastic bag that protects the apparel item) that had 0% recycled content to one that is now comprised of 30% recycled content. In the US, we have increased the recycled content of our polybag materials from only 6.1% in 2018 to 13.4% in 2020, and we are looking to further increase this in the coming few years. QVC Germany is working toward an amazing improvement – moving from 0% recycled content in their polybags to ones that are now made out of 80% recycled content. The QVC team in the UK plans to convert their jewelry pouches and boxes to ones made with recycled content as well, and they are working on having bagging film and returned polybags recycled into other film and bags for reuse.
To begin recycling more of our packaging at our on-site fulfillment centers we first needed to understand our current state. In 2018 we conducted an audit of our recycling activities across our US fulfillment centers to see how much paper, corrugate, wood and plastic film is currently being recycled. With this information we are now developing consistent recycling standards and partnerships across our fulfillment network. Stay tuned for more information to come.