Research: the sustainability of Belgian collection and delivery point networks

The increase in at-home deliveries of online ordered goods has led to a rise in urban logistics facilities. One such facility, in particular, the collection and delivery point (CDP), is an increasingly popular delivery option amongst carriers and holds the promise of more sustainable e-commerce logistics.

A prerequisite to achieve this promise is that the pick-up trip occurs in an environmentally friendly manner. By delineating 1 km catchment areas – the car is the preferred transportation mode for longer distances – researchers tested whether the current Belgian CDP networks encourage this type of pick-up. They find that only one courier catches just over half of the population within walking distance of its points and conclude that the current network set-ups thus jeopardize the sustainability promise. Beckers and Verhetsel presented their research on CDPs.


CDPs are the most common urban logistics facility in Europe. These points potentially present a more sustainable alternative for home deliveries because of three reasons. First, a 100% success rate, consolidation opportunities, and economies of scope make CDPs a cost-efficient solution for the carrier. Second, concentrating logistics activities in some zones while removing them from some areas such as schools, together with the offer to consumers to pick up a parcel at a convenient time, makes that CDPs improve the social component of e-deliveries. Third, the decrease in driven kilometers – assuming van kilometers are not substituted by pick-up kilometers – also lowers the environmental impact of the last mile.

Quantity versus quality

The researchers attribute this finding to a quantity over quality mindset by logistics companies when expanding their network. With this analysis, this paper raises awareness for considering the spatial implementation of the CDP when discussing the sustainability of CDPs, something which has been largely absent due to the transport economics focus in the existing literature.

However, 75% of the points’ walkable catchment areas overlap paves the way towards installing shared CDPs. As this solution would improve the sustainability of the delivery alternative, we urge urban governments to facilitate these multi-carrier CDPs by providing supporting infrastructure or by safeguarding dedicated spaces in urban plans.

Multi-carrier CDPs

Therefore, we make a case for multi-carrier CDPs. In our discussion, we highlight different instruments for urban governments to steer carriers towards multi-carrier CDPs. However, besides their higher potential for an environmentally friendly pick-up, multi-carrier CDPs also offer economic advantages from a space, legitimacy, and resource management perspective. Resultantly, it might be sufficient for local authorities to facilitate installing these points at desired locations, for example, through supporting infrastructure.

The main claim towards the private sector is that there is a need for professionalization in existing points, such as organized storage, shopkeeper training, and strategic planning.


Source: Joris Beckers & Ann Verhetsel (2021): The sustainability of the urban layer of e-commerce deliveries: the Belgian collection and delivery point networks, European Planning Studies

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