Your online shopping habit is devastating wildlife. Here's what to do

·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

We’ve challenged Australia’s best minds in sustainability to give us one simple tip each week that can help our readers make a difference to the environment.

Australians had been doing a great job of reducing their household waste, but then Covid-19 struck, the trend reversed, and output surged by 20 per cent.

With many of us eating at home, take-away containers are a significant part of the problem, but the packaging associated with parcel deliveries is also a major factor.

A surge in online packaging is resulting in increased habitat loss, but there is one simple thing you can do to help. Source: Getty
A surge in online packaging is resulting in increased habitat loss, but there is one simple thing you can do to help. Source: Getty

Most of us excitedly rip the cardboard from our online purchases without considering where the raw materials that make up boxes, envelopes and cylinders come from.

The short answer is it often often comes native forests, Amelia Young from the Wilderness Society warns.

As “bulldozers and chainsaws” rip through habitat, felling logs to make packaging, she has seen evidence that our wildlife, including koalas, gliders and endangered Leadbeater's possums, “isn't coping”.

“There's a huge impact on wildlife living in those forests, and in some cases it's wildlife that's found nowhere else on Earth,” Ms Young told Yahoo News Australia.

Only Indonesia is outpacing Australia when it comes to biodiversity loss, and our nation is ranked within the top 10 when it comes to deforestation.

“Shamefully Australia is a world leader in habitat destruction,” Ms Young said.

“There’s only around eight per cent of forest and bushland left standing in this country that was here at colonisation.”

Pandemic packaging by the numbers

A massive $44 billion was spent on online shopping last year, the National Australia Bank revealed in February.

During 2020, almost nine million households made online purchases, according to figures from Australia Post who told Yahoo News Australia the growth since the pandemic began has been “significant”.

The company’s data suggests five million households are now buying online on a monthly basis, and as a result they’re currently delivering 10 million parcels a week.

This surge is consistent with eBay, which claims to be Australia’s most visited shopping site. It said nearly 12 million Australians are shopping with them a month, which is the equivalent of two thirds of the country’s adult population.

One simple thing Aussies can do to help our forests

The Wilderness Society recommends consumers look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo when buying packing products.

Endangered species, indigenous rights and compliance with international treaties must be considered before a company is certified by the international company, which has operated for 27 years.

Logging of native forests is impacting Australia's unique wildlife. Source: WWF-Australia
Logging of native forests is impacting Australia's unique wildlife. Source: Briano / WWF-Australia

While eBay, Amazon and Australia Post all told Yahoo News Australia that their branded packaging is either recycled or FSC approved, the Wilderness Society warns many of those used by private sellers and other companies are not.

“Every time you get something delivered to your home in a cardboard box, it’s really important to know where that cardboard box has come from,” Ms Young said.

“And this is because more than 90 per cent that is logged out of Victoria’s native forests is used to make products like cardboard boxes.

“So one easy thing you can do when you order online is to ask the seller where the packaging is coming from that they’re sending their goods to you in.

“Make sure that the people you’re buying from know that you expect things to be delivered in a sustainable cardboard box.”

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