The Green Corridor – Keep an Eye Out for Green!
Optimism springs eternal among some people — myself included! That said, I am never surprised to hear my otherwise upbeat logistics colleagues express Grinch-like pessimism when it comes to emissions reduction in our industry.
A big reason for this pessimism is because when we experience changes incrementally, we often are unable to recognize the larger trends taking shape. As we say goodbye to 2021, I’d like to leave you with predictions of some quietly developing green trends that we should start noticing in 2022. These trends should give us some hope that an emissions-free logistics world is indeed emerging!
Expect to see less plastic used — even if the packaging material looks and behaves like plastic, it may be made from starch or other materials that are not derived from fossil fuels. Less plastic should really be the rule and our industry needs to demand non-plastic options as these become more widely available and price competitive.
As consumers become more savvy and demand more eco-friendly options, companies that don’t meet the expectation stand the risk of being called out. Just recently, Unilever was delivered a black eye being named the world’s third largest plastics polluter by volume (only behind Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co.). Though a sponsor of COP26 and known for its efforts to move toward sustainability, Unilever’s plastic garbage level was reported by 11,184 eco-volunteers around the world (https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/BRAND-AUDIT-REPORT-2021.pdf).
That said, Unilever, in its process of continuous improvement, does have some revolutionary non-plastics packaging available. We can expect to see a change in how liquids, such as laundry detergent and hair care products, sold by Unilever companies are packaged in 2022. As one of the world’s largest food and household product manufacturers, this should influence other companies to follow suit and hopefully provide sustainable packaging suppliers more volume to bring unit costs down. Besides more sustainable materials, expect in 2022 to see more incentives from brands or retailers to encourage consumers to return used packaging for recycling.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are already used as taxis in many large cities in Asia, but expect 2022 to be a year of much market growth. In Singapore, in addition to BYD EVs already on the road, 300 electric MG5s will be added to the fleet of Stride.
EVs are attractive to taxi companies because they have the fleet size to support their own charging infrastructure and reap huge savings in operational costs. Imagine not having to pay for another liter of patrol and only pennies for kilowatt hours! Add in growing government incentives and we should see more EV taxi fleets on the road.
Replacing gas-guzzling, toxic fume-spewing, ear-splitting buses with quiet and clean buses would provide huge benefits to people all over Asia. From Go-Ahead in Singapore to KMB in Hong Kong, bus electrification is expected to pick up speed in metropolitan areas in 2022. Go-Ahead is taking it one step further by putting solar panels on top of buses to augment the power (and reduce carbon emissions) further (https://go-aheadsingapore.com/go-ahead-singapore-launches-proof-of-concept-trials-for-ultra-thin-solar-panel-fitted-buses/).
With long idle times and high fuel consumption to power compactors and other onboard machinery, garbage trucks are obvious candidates for electrification. BYD, Mack, and other manufacturers have pushed electric trucks into many existing fleets and they are already demonstrating savings in total operational costs. More cities in Asia should be experiencing quieter garbage pick-ups by the end of 2022.
Post offices have led the way in many Asian countries in terms of switching to EVs that do not produce GHG emissions. Commercial operators like DHL Express are also ramping up electrification. During a recent webinar hosted by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Singapore (https://www.cilt.org.sg/copy-of-cilt-resources-1), Hassan Raza Leghari, VP of Ground Operations, DHL Express, told attendees about the company’s growing Asian ground fleets of electric delivery vans, scooters and bikes.
New long-range zero-emission heavy trucks are critical if we’re to have any chance in meeting the 1.5 degree centigrade increase cap needed to mitigate climate change before hitting the point of no return. And I am cautiously optimistic that 2022 might be the year when sustainability planning takes hold among more companies that have fleets of heavy trucks. Traditional truck makers like Volvo, Mercedes, Kenworth, BYD, Peterbilt, and Renault will all be showing off their zero-emission vehicles. Additionally, new entrants like Navistar, Tesla, Thor, and undoubtedly several Chinese manufacturers, will be fighting to become a new leader in the EV heavy truck marketplace.
To support the growing number of EVs hitting the road, a parallel infrastructure expansion is also needed. While companies like Engie and some existing service station operators like BP have begun constructing EV charging units, I think only in 2022 will some of these begin to be visible in Asia Pacific. Some of these electric charging stations may be at company carparks or places you never would have associated with filling your car with petrol.
Warehouses and logistics hubs (like DB Schenker’s “Red Lion” facility in Singapore) provide a perfect space for companies or their landlords to put up some solar panels to save energy costs and cut emissions. 2022 should see more of this infrastructure spending, hopefully to the point where you will notice it more frequently.
While I am quite confident of my predictions above, I do have one green “wildcard” wish for 2022! I am hoping for one large battery technology leap to move solid-state batteries into the marketplace commercially. Millions of dollars are now being spent on research to make batteries that are more powerful and more dense than what’s available today. Pair these features with lower costs can propel many logistics companies to fast track their emission-cutting plans while hastening the end of the internal combustion engine. My fingers are crossed for this one.
New year predictions are often forgotten once the holiday celebrations are over, but I’ll be keeping a copy of this article until the end of next year. Let’s see how many of these come true. Until February, Green Corridor wishes you a healthy and green new year!