by Robin Pascoe
If you’ve ever stopped to study the pile of cardboard boxes that inevitably pile up next to every waste bin in the city you can learn a lot about your neighbours.
You will have neighbours who get their food delivered by Hello Fresh or Marley Spoon, you will have neighbours who seem to buy a new piece of flatpack furniture every weekend, and you will have the shopaholic neighbours who seem to spend their entire day behind their computer – just buying things.
You will come to start counting the delivery vans as they arrive and depart, depositing ever more cardboard boxes in people’s halls and sitting rooms. And you will wait until your neighbour carries out the pile of packaging that seems to accompany their new toaster and adds it to the pile next to the underground paper container, which has not been emptied for three days, despite numerous meldings on Amsterdam.nl.
The city knows there is a problem with all this cardboard, and is planning to install ever bigger recycling containers to cope with it. But why? There is a much simpler and cheaper solution to the cardboard box mountain – statiegeld – deposits.
Pay a deposit!
If everyone who bought something online had to pay a deposit of, say, €5 for the cardboard box, and online retailers were required by law to take them back, then the mountain would disappear overnight.
It does not need to be complicated. Empty boxes could be returned to the person who delivers the parcel in the first place, they could be handed in at special depots, and, if the worst comes to the worst, the small boys who collect empty cola bottles would make a fortune from collecting up empty boxes and handing them into the appropriate collection point.
Not only would this cut down on the paper mountain, but it would also force firms to think twice about their ‘free delivery’ services, which are only free for the person buying the item. At the moment, the rest of us are picking up the tab for the mess that they make.
I can tell from the piles next to our bin that Bol.com and Cool Blue are clearly winning the war over Amazon, that Ikea is in no danger of going bust, and that televisions are getting bigger and bigger. But I can also see that the cardboard box industry is benefiting from the surge in online shopping most of all.
Robin Pascoe is the editor of Dutch News