Package Pals Trio
Founders – Package Pals
Package Pals' introduction

Package Pals is a circular packaging initiative that seeks to extend the life cycle of packaging. We collect used e-commerce packaging from members of the public, distributing it back to businesses seeking eco-friendly, second hand packaging options. There are 7 categories of packaging we collect: poly mailers (<A4),paper envelopes (<A4), plastic wrappers (<A4), bubble wrap, padded envelopes.

Package Pals has worked with multiple large and small businesses, schools, NGOs and governmental organisations since it was started in May 2020. Other than carrying out collection and distribution, we also focus on education and outreach, seeking to educate our 4k-strong audience on packaging waste and other environmental issues, through social media, webinars and other events.

You are 3 young Singaporeans who have launched Package Pals in May 2020. May we know a little more about each one of you? Why did you embark on this journey?

Rachel Lee (co-founder) is currently taking a bridging course, and will be studying law in the UK come September. Rachel Han (co-founder) is currently on a gap year, and plans to major in psychology with a second major or minor in environmental studies. Puan Xin (publicity director) is a freshman at the NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

The idea to start Package Pals came about after both co-founders started observing the amounts of packaging waste generated by the rise in online shopping - both in general and as a result of COVID-19 - with people not knowing what to do with them or throwing them away. At the same time, online 2nd-hand sellers like Rachel Lee were facing a shortage in 2nd-hand mailers which many thrift sellers used to mail out orders.

Thus, what started out as a text sent by Rachel Han to an environment support Telegram group about recycling poly mailers in Singapore (since they cannot be recycled in our public blue bins) turned into a friendship when Rachel Lee reached out, and a feasible project along the way as we shared our ideas and found lots of common ground (and coincidentally, mutual friends)!

All of us had taken an interest in environmental sustainability prior to embarking on the project together, but mainly realised this through individual actions (which are just as important).

What were the main challenges you faced launching Package Pals? How did you overcome them? What would you do differently?
  • Receptiveness of our project and the idea of second-hand packaging, both from consumers and businesses. Especially because we started on a whim, one month after the idea was conceptualised, the number of donations and orders we received in our first month began to stress us. However, we began receiving more attention on social media after our first month and saw increasing support for our project and cause!
  • Oversupply of certain types of packaging (i.e., bubble wrap and plastic wrappers), as well as a lack of others (i.e., poly mailers and padded packaging). To curb this, we have temporarily paused donations for bubble wrap and plastic wrappers, while encouraging businesses and individuals to order from us and reduce our oversupply.
  • Unwanted donations, including packaging we do not accept (and have repeatedly stated as such onsocial media) such as boxes and styrofoam. We would greatly prefer if people do not donate these as we cannot distribute them back and it takes up space in our office. Instead, donors can refer to our resource matching sheet to find sellers who do accept the packaging we do not. Other than that, we have also received unusual donations such as a wooden duck, a whole pack of Milo powder and dolls... We are concerned that our donations open us up to being treated as a ‘dumping ground’. A possible cause is donors are not being fully aware of what happens to their packaging after it has been dropped off. Although we have tried to be more transparent with the process on social media, we don’t have a solution to circumvent this issue successfully as of now, but we hope donors can be more considerate!

How do you educate people about which packaging can be re-used and which cannot?

Dissemination of information is mainly done through our social media channels. It is difficult to ensure that people are receiving our messaging, as we often get packaging that we do not accept through donations. We try our best to correct enquiries through DM/email, or put out social media announcements otherwise.

How do you work with organisations & companies? What do you advise them to do to reuse their packagings?

We connect with businesses to get them to adopt more eco-friendly packaging practices. We achieve this by demonstrating the demand and customer receptiveness for more sustainable packaging options, providing credible information for businesses to make decisions.

We would first advocate for companies to, as far as possible, reuse the packaging they receive back from their own customers. This can be done by setting up a drop-off point at their store and allowing customers to mail packaging back to them, a system we can advise on.

Otherwise,we are able to collect businesses' packaging back from customers and pass it back to companies for reuse. This may provide more incentive, as customers may find it convenient to donate all their packaging to a single, centralised source. We currently do this with 2 clothing businesses, Esse and Kinquo.

More commonly, we provide packaging to businesses. For businesses requiring larger quantities, they may order in bulk with a nominal fee that is still very much below market rate.

What are your plans to develop Package Pals?

Something that has always been a key focus of ours is education and outreach! One of our primary aims is to shift customer perception of second hand packaging, and waste in general, in the long-term.

We would like to get our audience thinking about the end life of the products they purchase (and the packaging that comes with them). This includes taking greater responsibility over the packaging they pass to us and using consumer power to influence businesses to adopt the packaging option we offer.

We hope to use our social media as a platform to spread awareness about packaging waste, address misconceptions and overall encourage a conscious mindset towards waste and shopping. Currently, we are doing this in the form of infographics on various topics related to e-commerce.

We also work with schools on educational campaigns and the setting up of drop-off points.

Drop-off Collection Point at NTU

We have also attended talks hosted by schools and webinars for the general public. Through such events, we hope to further boost our reach and hopefully inspire young minds to start taking action or even start projects of their own!

Another goal for us is to reach out to more businesses and drive impact in the mass consumer market. Although Package Pals started out as a simple idea, we have been super fortunate that many businesses and organisations resonate with our cause and have reached out to collaborate. Though we started out as a small team of 19-year-olds, this has shown us that we have the potential to make an impact on a corporate level. Thus, we not only seek to show the demand and consumer receptiveness for more sustainable packaging options, but we also strive to work with retailers to tackle packaging waste on an operational level.

We also plan to expand our reach to more schools, businesses and malls. Our latest drop-off point at Our Tampines Hub was recently launched and has been met with an unexpectedly enthusiastic response, so we hope to continue increasing accessibility to our initiative.

What are you most proud of?

It is hard to pinpoint exact aspects of our project but seeing the impact we have made on individual, community and organisational levels has been amazing. From individuals reaching out to tell us how we have inspired them to start their green journey to businesses not only switching to second-hand packaging but also inviting us to share about our project.

The numbers we have seen – Instagram followers, number of packaging donated and distributed etc. – have been a heartening statement to the support we have seen for our project, and drive us to pursue greater impact moving forward.

What would be your top 3 pieces of advice to The Matcha Initiative (TMI) users?

The first step to taking action is a willingness to act on gaps or issues identified. Also, never disregard the value of collaboration! Reaching out to communities is how I met Rachel Lee & that led to the founding of PackagePals. - Rachel Han

The best environmental solutions start with using what you already have. Make use of the resources on hand to reduce your environmental impact. For example, instead of purchasing new compostable or paper straws, use up your paper straws or go strawless. This applies to individual action - e.g. you don’t have to go out of your way to buy specific cups for takeaway, but can use waterbottles /tumblers that you already have. - Rachel Lee

Social media is such a powerful tool. Use your platforms to gain a wider outreach and to spread the ideas that you believe in. Our initiative gained traction solely on social media and via word of mouth - and it has brought us so many opportunities! It is important to remain grounded and have thoughtful interactions with your audience. - Puan Xin

How could you help The Matcha Initiative (TMI) users?

We can provide you or your business with eco-friendly packaging needs. This includes supplying you with second-hand packaging, helping you set up a drop-off point in your office, school, or business to collect packaging, and establish a take-back system for packaging with your brand.

We can also have a chat on the topic of eco-friendly packaging, and share our experiences!

Rachel,Rachel and Puan Xin kindly accept to answer your questions.
If you need additional insights, you can send them a message