You wouldn’t believe how much air pollution home delivery can cause!

According to a recent study, the carbon emissions of the six most polluting delivery companies in the world reach 4.5 megatonnes per year for the last kilometre of delivery. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of roughly 600 000 households.

Last year, e-commerce accounted for nearly 20 percent of retail sales worldwide, and this share is expected to rise to at least 25 percent by 2025. And with e-commerce comes the need to deliver parcels, mostly by motor vehicle.

For the first time, a survey has been carried out on the environmental impact of delivering parcels ordered online, and the final kilometres of delivery. Although the final kilometres are often a fraction of the total journey, they can be responsible for up to half of the carbon emissions of the entire journey. These short journeys, made by millions of delivery vans, cars, motorcycles and mopeds every day, disproportionately pollute urban air.

Ninety courier companies in Europe, India and North America were surveyed by Research Group on behalf of the Clean Mobility Collective. The study found that the six leading e-commerce delivery companies (UPS, FedEx, Amazon Logistics, DPD, eKart, DHL eCommerce, Solutions) emit 4.5 megatonnes of carbon dioxide on last-kilometre delivery annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of roughly 600,000 households. The researchers estimate that the six largest suppliers are responsible for two thirds of the three million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by e-commerce in Europe each year.

“E-commerce is growing rapidly worldwide, with sales reaching $4.9 trillion in 2021 and projected to grow by 50 per cent over the next four years. That's why it's important to reduce the carbon footprint per small parcel delivered. Delivery operators need to rethink their operations and gradually switch to less polluting means,” said Márton Vargha, Transport Policy Officer of Clean Air Action Group.

“The environmental awareness of the clients also matters a lot. The more people who agree to walk to the nearest parcel point to pick up a small parcel, the shorter the distance a van has to travel to drop off all the parcels. With far fewer stops, the carbon dioxide emissions while looking for a parking or loading place will also be much lower,” added Judit Szegő, project manager of the Clean Air Action Group.

With government and municipal assistance, transfer centres can be set up from where parcels can be delivered by electric motorbike, pedelec, bicycle or on foot. In the medium term, however, the electrification of the entire fleet is inevitable, and this has already begun with the largest delivery companies.

The study can be downloaded here:

Image from Clean Air Action Group video