Parcel lockers can make shopping more environmentally friendly
Researchers believe that encouraging us to pick up packages from lockers instead of having them delivered to our doorstep can significantly reduce environmental emissions.
During the pandemic, we shopped online like never before.
After the reopening, online shopping reduced slightly, but our habits had already changed.
A report from the Institute of Transport Economics (TØI) shows that online grocery sales in Norway are now significantly higher than before the pandemic.
Home delivery saw significant growth, where packages were delivered directly to our homes or mailboxes.
However, recently, package lockers have appeared in many places across the country. These self-service lockers allow us to pick up packages 24/7 using an app to automatically open the locker.
More than tenfold
Researchers at TØI examined the usage of PostNord’s parcel lockers since their introduction in 2021.
Compared to 2021, the number of packages delivered through lockers increased more than tenfold in 2022, according to the study.
By spring 2023, this parcel locker network consisted of nearly 2,150 lockers located at over 940 locations in Norway.
Most lockers are located near stores and residential areas, aiming to be within easy reach for customers when the network is fully expanded.
Today, the network is particularly well-developed around Oslo, where a significant portion of the population lives near such lockers. But in areas like Viken and Rogaland as well, many people now live near a locker, as stated in an article by TØI (link in Norwegian).
Parcel lockers primarily serve as an alternative to home delivery, which became much more common during the pandemic.
Researchers believe that increased use of such lockers can potentially reduce traffic and environmental emissions.
Home delivery is resource-intensive, and parcel lockers offer a more efficient, flexible, and cost-effective delivery option.
Almost all packages are delivered to the same locker once a day.
Up to 32 per cent reduction in emissions
Especially when centrally located, allowing customers to combine picking up packages with other errands, parcel lockers can be particularly effective from a societal perspective, the researchers argue.
Their analysis shows that if parcel lockers replace home delivery and their numbers increase, it can significantly reduce fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and local emissions from the distributor to the customer’s home.
They suggest a reduction of up to 32 per cent.
At the same time, the package is to be picked up by the customer. How environmentally friendly this pickup process is will determine the extent of the emissions reduction.
Many goods are thrown away
While shopping from the couch may not in itself be environmentally friendly, the chances of returning items like clothing that doesn’t fit are higher with online shopping, resulting in return shipments.
Offering free returns is a competitive advantage for retailers. Therefore, it is often free to return unwanted items.
But this has both environmental and economic costs.
The high proportion of returns leads to a much more complex logistics process than traditional commerce, resulting in increased emissions from transportation.
Another significant problem is that many returned items are not resold and end up being discarded, as Swedish researchers have found.
It is often more profitable for retailers to dispose of these items rather than dealing with the hassle of processing returns. This was reported by forskning.no earlier this year (link in Norwegian).
Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.
Hovi et al. Parcel lockers as delivery solution - Usage patterns, experiences and effects of network expansions, TØI Report 1959/2023, 2023.