Returnable: A system for circular e-commerce deliveries

With e-commerce growing in the grocery trade, the amount of plastic and paper bags not being reused or recycled is also increasing. In a previous project, Axfoundation, together with a number of partners, developed a hypothesis for a potential solution that has received a positive response from the grocery industry.

The Issue

In the grocery trade and the growing e-commerce sector, a very large amount of plastic and paper bags are utilized, however, these are not reused or recycled to the extent required in a circular economy. Customer frustration is also great over the large number of bags that are used in e-commerce food deliveries. There are better bags today than a few years ago, but there is no updated life cycle analysis for the current system and a more circular and resource-efficient solution is needed.

Solution proposal

At a workshop in late autumn 2020, organized by the service design agency Antrop and the Nordic network LOOP (funded by Nordic Innovation), Axfoundation, Svenska Retursystem (SRS) and Antrop came together to realize an idea for a circular system for e-commerce food deliveries. The project was named Returnable (in Swedish, Returbar).

The goal was to gather the actors from the grocery industry for a joint investment in circular load carriers to reduce the CO2 footprint in e-commerce and make it easier for consumers to become more circular.

Our work

Together with the other partners, Axfoundation developed a hypothesis for a potential solution based on international ventures, systematic monitoring on developments in the industry, plans of future dark stores, customer surveys, researcher contacts and a simple life cycle analysis. To anchor the idea, Axfoundation engaged with actors in the grocery industry whilst the solution was being developed.


The idea received a positive response when it was presented to key actors in the grocery industry. Due to the sharp increase in sales via e-commerce during the pandemic, however, actors in the grocery industry were primary focused on being able to meet the increasing demand, which resulted in the project being currently put on hold.

“We see this not as a failure, but rather as a project rudiment that has generated many new insights. Together we have put the issue of circular delivery bags high on the agenda in the grocery trade, and Axfoundation intends to manage the insights gathered to see if they can be useful in the future.” – Amelie Silfverstolpe, Axfoundation


The service design and UX agency Antrop — who have been working for a long time to combine benefits for users, businesses and society.

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

Våra projekt inom Cirkulär ekonomi

Aktuellt inom Cirkulär ekonomi