India’s online shoppers are all for recycling—if there’s a cashback involved

Plastic money.
Plastic money.
Image: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Indian middle-class families often love hoarding plastic bags and packaging material to make the most of every rupee they spend. Online shopping, though, has brought an abundance of such items, so much so that people are now willingly trashing them away.

Nearly half of those who shop online in India prefer disposing off such material instead of meticulously storing them for future use, according to a recent survey by online citizen engagement platform LocalCircles. The survey was conducted in 112 Indian cities with over 10,000 participants.

However, that also means worsening India’s severe landfill problem, given the amount of plastic used in food delivery packaging. The fact that India generates 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day has even prompted prime minister Narendra Modi to sound the bugle.

E-commerce and delivery companies face a particular challenge in the face of this Oct. 2 deadline set by Modi to do away with all single-use plastic.

Walmart’s Flipkart, for instance, has set a target of using only recycled plastic by 2021.

What’s heartening is that deal-loving Indians seem willing to help achieve these goals. Over 90% of those who shop online in India are willing to return the plastic packaging material for recycling soon receiving their consignments—but for a small incentive—according to the LocalCircles survey.

Nearly 90% of those surveyed expected up to Rs50 ($0.70) in cash for returning such material.

E-commerce, poised to be a $84 billion industry by 2021, can have a huge impact on reducing India’s plastic consumption.