Returnable: A system for circular e-commerce deliveries

During the last decades, packaging waste has increased drastically in many sectors due to growing e-comm and changes in consumer behaviors. Together with several actors from the food retail sector and other relevant partners, Axfoundation has initiated a project to address the growing challenge with single use packaging in food e-commerce and more specifically the unsustainable use of paper bags in home deliveries.

The Issue

In 2020, 1,4 million tons of packaging were put on the Swedish market according to Statistics Sweden. Paper packaging is most common, accounting for 604 200 tons. Often, packaging for single use has a short lifecycle and becomes waste in no time. Consequently, the world sees a growing environmental impact from packaging due to the increasing need for natural resources and challenges in recycling wasted materials.

Today, actions to solve the packaging problem are mostly focused on the recycling of these materials. However, many actors are switching the focus from recycling to reuse to ease the pressure on raw materials. For instance, The Swedish government has adopted a new milestone target (as part of the environmental quality objectives). The goal states that the proportion of reusable packaging on the market must increase by at least 20 percent from the year 2022 to the year 2026, and by at least 30 percent from the year 2022 to the year 2030. The “Returnable”-project aims to contribute to this development by finding a practical system solution to reusable bags in home deliveries.

Solution proposal

Through a design driven process, our goal is to contribute to an industry-wide solution where food home deliveries are made within a circular system in which reusable delivery bags are shared among industry partners and used countless times by consumers.

Our work

In 2022, Axfoundation was granted funding from Vinnova and RE:source to explore ways to replace the current linear food e-comm deliveries in paper bags with a joint circular system for reuse delivery packages. The project will explore solutions for the physical reusable delivery bag itself, but more importantly, develop a system that will support it being looped back and used again, again and again.

The project has kicked off with several industry-wide workshops, focusing on mapping current systems and operations to address challenges and opportunities ahead. The project intends to be completed in Q1 2024.


Chalmers Industriteknik, Coop, Dagab/Axfood, ICA, Mathem, Svensk Dagligvaruhandel and Svenska Retursystem.

The service design and UX agency Antrop — who have been working for a long time to combine benefits for users, businesses and society. Product design agency Boid well known for innovative design and traceability systems.

Svenska Retursystem — who have 20 years of experience in managing a national system of circular and climate-smart B2B load carriers in the food industry.


Projects within Circular Economy