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Environmental concerns raised as online deliveries increase

18 December 2017 - 10:47 by Graham Miller

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The increase in pollution caused by safe shopping online is being monitored closely by eco-campaigners, with the approach of Christmas channelling fresh attention towards this issue, according to the Guardian.

Vans are used to complete last-mile delivery for millions of packages across the country, with consumers embracing the convenience of e-commerce in order to buy gifts ahead of December 25th. But inefficient distribution means that many of these commercial vehicles are not properly filled, leading to higher emissions and more congestion on the roads.

Thirty nine per cent of the vans operating in London are estimated to be packed with goods at just 25 per cent of their available capacity. This is in part as a result of the fragmented nature of safe shopping online, with thousands of different retailers operating separate sites and associated delivery services.

Those concerned about air quality and pollution levels argue that more should be done to tackle this, with freight consolidation seen as a viable solution, given that it is unlikely that the growth of e-commerce can be slowed or reversed.

Of course, the rise in van use and the associated increase in harmful emissions needs to be considered in relation to the fact that prior to the rise of internet shopping, people had to use their own personal vehicles to visit outlets and ferry items home. So with proper optimisation, online shopping should be more environmentally friendly.

Click and collect remains a popular delivery choice for many consumers, meaning the habits of the past are still being sustained. And as more delivery vehicles running on electric power, rather than polluting diesel and petrol engines, enter service, then urban delivery in particular should be less of a concern, with tighter regulations and London’s ultra low emissions zone aiming to force through air quality improvements.