by Franciss Nikole Elli | November 10, 2021
You may be familiar with return policies especially when shopping online. While it is a hassle processing the wrong shoe size or the defective item, the operations that run behind sending back your wrong order may be intriguing.
Students who study logistics management may be aware of the concept of shifting to newer business models that promote sustainability in the supply chain. And while people may be more familiar with forward logistics, which facilitates the movement of goods or packages from the manufacturer to the consumers, it also has its counterpart. On the other hand, reverse logistics refers to the process of “recovering” the value of returned goods while bringing this back to the market to be purchased.
What sets reverse logistics apart?
The traditional idea of the linear economy surrounding the concept of “take-make-dispose” is slowly being discouraged as we face the challenges brought about by climate change.
Recently, the strengthening efforts towards a sustainable supply chain led the concept of reverse logistics to emerge. It does not follow a linear economy. Instead, it promotes a circular economy, designed to maximize the use of resources through the recovery of materials and utilizing these until their end of lives.
Reusing or recycling may not be a very novel idea in terms of sustainability. However, if giant corporations will adopt this initiative, it will be able to create influential ripples in the market operations.
On top of this, these giant corporations face a dilemma. As they race towards pioneering the market to provide the fastest delivery service or dominate doorstep deliveries, the energy consumed by even a single parcel to reach a doorstep is immensely huge.
More often than not, these are the aspects that consumers fail to see. The transfers, transports, and in-betweens of the delivery process produce emissions9 and use up energy. All these sacrifices of resources meet your surprise as you pry the package open, only to realize you don’t want it anymore.
Now, imagine if this process happens for every purchasing household. Hundreds and thousands of unwanted goods and resources are put to waste.
Market for unwanted goods and over-purchase
This conceived the question, “What if there is a market for these unwanted goods?” With reverse logistics, these unwanted goods are sold off to other customers who may want them. The damaged goods may be refurbished or repaired. Results of over-purchase can be repackaged and resold.
For Amazon, a US e-commerce company, they cut costs on their returns by partnering with other businesses which shall be drop-off areas for customers’ return items. While this may still be a far-fetch idea for our country to adopt, there are actually companies that are starting to adopt sustainable business models.
One example would be Humble Sustainability. Their goal is to encourage people towards circular living by decluttering objects in their households which they may no longer need. Humble will be the one to find ways and solutions to reuse, recycle or upcycle these items. Another company, the Plastic Flamingo, accepts all types of plastics and transforms these into a different sustainable construction material which can be used to build shelters and schools.
While these efforts are laudable, these businesses operate only in the metropolitan area of the country. Other cities outside the metro, without access to these initiatives, are also dumping at an unprecedented rate which directly go to landfills.
It would be very empowering if the communities work ground up, to fix the problem of waste disposal and adjusting towards circular living. Our excess online purchases and the plastic packages that come along with it, uses more than just these resources that we receive by our doorstep. The mechanism behind this, is a huge network of intertwining connections of transfers and transports that sacrifice energy and resources with every step.
Rethink your habits of purchasing items. Shorten the supply chain by purchasing local items. And make it a habit to recycle or upcycle what you already have.