Project Overview

MINUS Zero Waste Store aims to facilitate the community towards living a sustainable lifestyle. It is an online zero waste retail store that does not use single-use plastic packaging in its products. To further reduce plastic pollution, Minus shipped all parcels using upcycled boxes instead of flyers.

About their pledge

Case Study

With the rise of online retailers locally and globally such as Lazada, TaoBao and Amazon, shopping has never been easier and more convenient. But, what is the cost of this convenience? In China where even food delivery has become commonplace, they saw a nine-fold jump in plastic waste generation within just a span of 2 years from 2017 to 2019. In the U.S., online retail generated 10,000 tonnes of packaging waste in 2018 alone. Does this paint a future scene for Malaysia as online retail becomes more and more popular in Malaysia?

This is where Minus Zero Waste Store in Johor Bahru, Malaysia is playing its role in redefining the possibilities for online retail. Online retail is not inherently bad, the convenience and affordability makes it so that both consumers and retailers benefit. However, something must be done with the packaging challenge.

Minus Zero Waste Store is an online retail store selling zero waste products ranging from personal care and feminine care to kitchen essentials. The mission is to enable individuals to easily take small first steps into a sustainable lifestyle and to enable communities to move away from single-use plastic.

Unlike other online retailers, you won’t get your products delivered wrapped in a plastic foil, surrounded by bubble wrap, put in a plastic bag that’s then put into a box that is covered in more plastic. 

Minus offers two types of delivery for orders within Johor Bahru and outside. For orders within JB, orders are delivered in upcycled cardboard boxes. Upon delivery, some customers choose to return the boxes after receiving their orders. For orders outside of JB, Minus will use these upcycled packaging together with water-activated paper tape which, while slightly more expensive, are recyclable tape.

Low waste parcel delivery with upcycled cardboard boxes and paper tape

Minus has never had to buy any new packaging material. All packaging has been reused and upcycled materials. Minus also collects additional boxes that would have otherwise gone to waste from it’s customers and social media followers.

According to a study conducted by the University of Shenzhen, University of Michigan and Beijing Normal University of the 40 billion pieces of packaging delivered in China,  46.5% of these deliveries used corrugated boxes, followed by plastic bags (30.4%), mixed packages (corrugated boxes covered by plastic bags, 10.1%), envelopes (5.0%), polystyrene foamed boxes (4.2%), and woven bags (2.8%). This means that only about 50% of the waste generated can be recycled if it even does get to a proper recycling facility as the study also shows that the recycle rate is modest at best. 

On the other hand, Minus essentially leaves a positive environmental footprint as it collects potential waste from it’s customers and adds value to them. Imagine the amount of plastic and waste you received from just one of your last Lazada orders. Since inception in September 2019, Minus Zero Waste Store has made about 50 deliveries outside JB and 200 deliveries within JB that generated zero waste. If Malaysia were to scale up our online delivery orders, the plastic nightmare in China could be our future or we can learn from the Minus Zero Waste Store to mitigate this risk.

From a business standpoint, Minus also lowers its CoGS (Cost of Goods Sold) by using reusable and upcycled material as packaging. More importantly, Minus builds an amazing relationship with its customers which is shown by 80% of Minus orders coming from returning customers.

Minus also uses this close relationship with its customers to begin educating them about the Zero Waste lifestyle. Most customers will start with trying one or two products, but as they become returning customers, they are willing and more than happy to buy more and more products.

On top of that, Minus also offers its customers with a BYOB price which allows customers who return their containers to get a discounted price. For example, Minus sells laundry detergent at RM3.00/100g. But, if the customer provides their own container, Minus gives them a 10% discount for RM2.70/100g. Also, Minus collects any waste paper from its customers to be reused for printing of receipts or other documentation. Not only does this add value to the customers, this also lowers the cost for Minus business operations.

Cassey Goh – founder of Minus Zero Waste Store – highly encourages local online retailers to explore these strategies employed above. Firstly, to use upcycled or reusable packaging instead of single-use packaging that would end up in a landfill. And secondly, to allow customers to return these reusable packaging, or other types of containers or reusable materials to the merchant to reuse.

These strategies not only reduce waste that end up in the landfill, it allows online retailers to build a much closer relationship with their customers and lower the cost of business operations.

As Minus’ tagline goes “Every Step Counts”