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Circular Packaging: What goes around comes around

Online shopping has only increased during the pandemic, and with those purchases come along tonnes of extraneous packaging. But before you chuck those polymailers and bubble wrap into the blue bin (or hoard them in the storeroom), check in first with Package Pals!

Package Pals is your modern ‘karang guni’ middleman, an online thrift seller that takes your unwanted used packaging and distributes them back to businesses for a new lease of life. The Package Pals team calls it circular packaging because it closes the loop from businesses to consumers and back again.

Package Pals is made up of just a small team of three 20-year-olds—Rachel Lee, Rachel Han and Puan Xin—who are juggling school, work and their passion project. What began as a small circle between family and friends has since expanded, and Package Pals now receives donations and orders from across the island.

Why not just recycle?

Recycling packaging is a good effort on everyone’s part, but recycling also requires additional energy and resources. Furthermore, contamination often leads to an entire batch of materials being non-recyclable.

In Singapore, household recyclables are collected by dedicated blue recycling trucks and then sent to facilities for sorting into paper, glass, metal and plastic. The sorted recyclables are then baled and forwarded to separate recycling plants.

All this takes up considerable effort and resources that could be otherwise saved if the materials were re-used instead.

For example, single-used packaging such as bubble wrap can be reused multiple times with minimal damage. Passing packaging back to businesses to reuse has the net effect of reducing new packaging orders and hence, waste.

In many cases, reducing and reusing items beats recycling hands down. It is better for people to think of how they can extend an item’s lifespan by using it for longer, or upcycling it to serve a different purpose for many more years.

What does Package Pals collect?

Package Pals currently collects seven categories of packaging:

  • Polymailers smaller than A4 size

  • Paper envelopes smaller than A4 size

  • Plastic wrappers smaller than A4 size

  • Bubble wrap

  • Padded envelopes

While all packaging is inspected and sorted by the team upon collection, the trio encourages packaging to be relatively clean and in a usable condition.

Donors are also advised to remove any personal details such as names and addresses before donating the items.

Reduce and reuse first

Package Pals has been encouraged by the overwhelming support they have received from the public thus far, and have hopes that their efforts make a positive difference.

They said, “Most importantly, we try to encourage customers to think twice before purchasing an item! So many of the products made today use an unnecessary amount of resources— and even if a product or its packaging is ‘recyclable’, that doesn’t offset the emissions and resources used up in the process of making the product.”

How can I help?

Sign up as an Upcircle contributor to donate your used packaging or learn more about the Package Pals program.

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