Recently, Norway’s Transport Economics Institute published a study on parcel lockers and their impact on CO2 reduction. According to this study, picking up parcels at automated lockers can result in a 30 percent reduction of CO2 in local emissions. This will reduce fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and local emissions from online shopping distribution. The researchers have analyzed the development of the parcel locker network by PostNord.
The researchers have studied when, where, and how many parcels are delivered to parcel lockers and the time it takes. They have also analyzed the timing of pickups, the time parcels spend in lockers before pickup, and differences in location type, geography, and types of goods. They have also examined the impact of the increased use of parcel lockers as an alternative to home delivery.
More and more people are gaining access to parcel lockers. Since 2021, the use of parcel lockers has increased rapidly. Most of these lockers are located at stores and housing cooperatives.
“In Oslo, Viken, and Rogaland, a large part of the population lives near a PostNord locker. Along with the Posten Bring parcel locker network and some smaller players, the network coverage in Norway is becoming significant even in a European context,” says Inger Beate Hovi, research director at TØI. “Because home deliveries are resource-intensive, parcel lockers have the potential for more efficient, flexible, and cheaper deliveries. This can benefit both the distributor, the recipient, and society as a whole,” she explains.
From 2021 to 2022, there was a tenfold increase in PostNord deliveries to parcel lockers. There is also some variation in locker times between geographical areas related to population coverage and pickup distances.
According to the study, parcel lockers in the local community can reduce emissions by 30 percent. Using parcel lockers instead of home deliveries can reduce traffic, emissions, and other external societal costs. If deliveries to parcel lockers increasingly replace home deliveries while the locker network expands, it could achieve a reduction of over 30 percent in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and local emissions from the distributor’s last mile.
However, deliveries to lockers mean consumers must go out to pick up their parcels. Traffic and emissions strongly depend on the location of the parcel lockers and the pickup distance. Therefore, the most effective parcel lockers are located in a way that allows as many people as possible to walk or cycle to them or where a pickup can be combined with other purposes.
The researchers found that parcel lockers might reduce emissions and other damages to society when replacing home deliveries. Even though CO2-reduction benefits are reduced when distribution transports shift to zero-emission vehicles, efficiency gains, cost savings, and reductions of other negative impacts for society will remain.
Parcel lockers have several advantages but also disadvantages, according to the study. The potential for more effective, cheaper, and more flexible deliveries can benefit both the distributor, recipient, and society. At the same time, several trade-offs exist where different interests are partially compatible and partially divergent. Examples include distributor-specific vs. open networks and implications for efficiency, traffic, environment, and effective use of scarcely available land.
Both for the distributor, recipients, and society, there are trade-offs between location choices, network density, and population coverage on the one hand and efficiency, convenience, pickup distances, and emissions on the other. Network density beyond a ‘saturation point’ can ,yield delivery fragmentation and adverse traffic effects, even though it may yield more convenient collection for recipients. Similarly, locations with good (vehicle-based) accessibility for the distributor are not necessarily the best locations for recipients, or reduce incentives for collecting parcels using environmentally friendly modes (walking, cycling, public transport) or in combination with other errands. The analyses also showed that it is essential to understand which network expansion strategies might complement each other and which systems overlap.
Industry expert Jesper Okkels reacted on Linkedin: “That carrier emissions can be reduced is a no-brainer, and the 30% reduction in carrier emissions researched in the Norwegian research corresponds with the DHL calculations.
That doesn’t mean that total emissions are reduced, except, as you correctly note, the consumer changes her/his behavior when picking up parcels. Parcel lockers remain conditionally sustainable, and such a claim will be outlawed by the new EU Green Claims Directive (Proposal)”.