They clog roads and often fill up on diesel: parcel delivery services are criticized for their carbon footprint. Packing stations are intended to save CO2. But does the calculation work?
Swiss Post is investing to become more climate-friendly and probably also to save costs. Soon there will be 15,000 packing stations instead of the current 12,000 and 1,000 instead of the current 100 postal stations nationwide.
“This means that we can offer our customers the possibility of accessing the package 24/7,” says Thomas Kutsch, spokesman for Deutsche Post AG. Kutsch also promises that the branch network will not be further reduced.
Packing stations save travel distances
According to Deutsche Post, packing centers should have a positive effect on the climate: “Climate protection also plays an important role because we save a third of CO2 compared to classic door-to-door delivery. We can deliver up to 100 parcels to the machine in one just travel.”
At Hermes, collection solutions will also play a more important role in the future, explains spokeswoman Julia Kühnemuth: “With delivery to parcel shops, more parcels can be delivered with far fewer journeys.” Traffic and emissions on the so-called “last mile” would be reduced. “A delivery collected at a Hermes ParcelShop produces on average 25% less CO2 than a delivery at a private home.”
True climate protection or sweetening?
Kathrin Zabel, general director of the PropaketBox association, does not believe that the systems of the industry giants really save that much CO2: “This only applies to their climate footprint, because delivery vehicles no longer have to reach every house. But a crucial aspect is kept secret: customers have to go to the station and collect the package, which creates additional traffic.”
Research shows that a home delivery actually produces less CO2 than driving many private cars to the station. This is due to better vehicle utilization by delivery services and more efficient route design.
Alternatively parcel box without supplier
The Zabel association promotes another solution: the so-called supplier-free parcel box, to which all service providers have access. The system is located like a letterbox directly at the customer’s home and every delivery service can drop off their parcels there, which ensures that every customer is always reachable – no repeated delivery attempts are necessary.
According to the association, parcel boxes across the country now have more than 400,000 compartments, which are used by around 1.8 million people. “This saves about a minute of time per package. Extrapolated, this means we need 2,000 fewer deliveries nationwide every day, which means there are 2,000 fewer vehicles on the road giving off their exhaust fumes.” , calculates Zabel.
Integrate trams and cargo bikes?
Help is urgently needed because the number of parcels in Germany is increasing dramatically. While just under 2.8 billion parcels were delivered in 2014, forecasts predict that by 2028 there will be nine billion. For delivery services, the issue of environmentally friendly delivery to customers will become increasingly urgent in the coming years.
For this reason, the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences is looking for solutions: “For example, we are studying how to integrate the tram system too,” says scientist Dennis Knese. “The parcels are transported from the depot on the outskirts of the city by train to the centre, where they are transferred to a cargo bike and then transported to the end customer.” According to the researchers, this can reduce CO2 emissions by around 57% compared to conventional delivery.
“In the end it’s usually just a question of cost”
However, the University of Applied Sciences model would lead to an increase in staff and therefore costs for parcel service providers. Also for this reason, according to Knese, development is proceeding slowly: “All companies are open to innovations and very interested. Of course the question is always: what about the money?”, says the sustainable mobility expert. “Every company is currently under pressure to act, they all have their own sustainability goals, they have to become greener, they have to become more climate friendly, but in the end, when it comes to implementation, it’s usually just a question of cost.”
And because of them many good ideas fail. There is therefore still a long way to go before climate-friendly parcel delivery. According to experts, you can also do something yourself: for example, go by bicycle to the local shop.