While e-commerce has become increasingly important in recent years, including in the health context, the waste that results from it follows a similar trajectory. It is to remedy this problem that the Opopop company offers online retailers its services in terms of reusable parcels, as the co-founder Charlotte Darmet points out in an interview with Feat-Y,where she defends this alternative to plastic or cardboard parcels, which are not very recyclable, or even non-reusable. Interview.
Feat-Y: Why did you launch Opopop?
Charlotte Darmet : Antonin and I have been working in e-commerce since the end of our studies. We realized that today, e-commerce is a very practical mode of consumption, in growth, but which is very wasteful. E-commerce is a great tool, provided that it is well used. We wanted to contribute to the emergence of a more responsible e-commerce, by tackling the particular subject of waste in e-commerce, which is numerous. Last year, 1.3 billion packages were shipped in France alone. That’s how much waste is thrown in the trash after a single use, it’s frustrating when we receive our parcels, isn’t it? What made us come into e-commerce is our knowledge of the sector and our desire to make it more virtuous.
Charlotte Darmet : “The Opopop packages will be reused dozens of times with a strong, waterproof fabric”.
Feat-Y: What materials do you use for your recycled packages and what are their advantages compared to plastic and cardboard packages?
C.D: Our packages are made from upcycled materials. What makes their positive impact is that they are reusable! Opopop’s objective is to apply the deposit system, which is used for packaging in commerce, to e-commerce parcels. Our parcels are reusable and returnable. To produce them, we recover end rolls from the textile industry, end rolls of waterproof fabrics, quite technical and very strong. This allows us to use dormant stocks and not to produce new materials to produce our parcels. The advantage of our parcels compared to disposable parcels is above all the reuse. Our parcels are made to be used dozens and dozens of times and are repairable. Our goal is 100 uses. Then, they are materials that can be revalorized, reprocessed, recycled at the end of the journey. Today, less than 10% of plastic outside of bottles is recycled in France. We can tell ourselves that a plastic that arrives in our home has a high probability of not being recycled. It will be incinerated or buried. A cardboard parcel can be recycled, but the manufacture of cardboard and its recycling are very resource intensive. Whether it is energy, water, etc., it is a resource that can be recycled. Beyond the comparison of materials in our case, it is the use that must be compared. Opopop packages will be reused dozens of times with a strong, waterproof fabric, versus a cardboard or plastic that will be used only once and that will be recycled in the best case.
Feat-Y: Are you in a logic made in France in the manufacture of your packages?
C.D: Absolutely. We are part of the circular economy, the economy of re-employment with Opopop. A reemployment project has more impact if it is as local as possible. Going to produce parcels in Asia, bringing them here and using them here doesn’t make much sense for us. We don’t want to be part of this approach. All our parcels are made in France. We recover the material in France and we transform the parcel in France, with a partner called Bilum, who has been doing upcycling since 2005. They are pioneers of upcycling in France.
Feat-Y: Your reusable parcel service is about e-commerce. Why target this type of business, implying a marginalization from “classic” business?
C.D.: It is not so much a departure from classic commerce because we have customers who have both stores and an e-commerce site. If ever the physical trade needs to make click and collect or delivery in a city, it can perfectly use our packages. What we put behind e-commerce is to be able to deliver customers. Why did you choose to be interested in e-commerce? Because it’s a way of buying that is exploding, especially with the current health crisis. And it is largely the delivery that generates waste. We do not oppose the two modes of consumption, we just chose to focus on the waste generated by one of them, e-commerce.
Feat-Y: Does the service you offer concern both individuals and companies and does it aim to be extended to the whole of France?
C.D: Our service is already national. We send parcels everywhere in France! Our customers are the online stores who ship to their consumers everywhere in France. Instead of buying plastic or cardboard from traditional packaging vendors, the e-merchant will rent the package on a per-use basis. The package then arrives at the user’s home, who will pick up his order and send the package back to any yellow post box of La Poste. There are 135,000 of them in France, necessarily one close to his home. The package comes back to us. We clean it, prepare it for the next cycle and deliver it to our partner retailers. So our customers are the e-merchants, but the users are our key partners: it’s thanks to them that the parcel stays in the loop. On the other hand, private individuals cannot use the parcels for their personal shipments for the moment. We’re trying to focus on the bulk of the volume, and the bulk of the waste, which is business shipments versus consumer shipments.
Feat-Y: Has the health context that has existed for the past year changed your development strategy?
C.D: Not so much. The context of Covid emphasized the problem of the waste of the e-commerce, because there was almost only e-commerce, for one year, to consume. E-commerce has experienced a stronger growth than in previous years. There is even more waste. Apart from the adaptations that all the companies had to make, it hasn’t changed our strategy. On the other hand, it has strongly accentuated our desire to solve the problem!
The Change Now 2021 will take place on May 27/28/29 in Paris: