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Horen takes a box-based approach to building China’s circular packaging economy

Written by 36Kr English Published on   3 mins read

The company is leveraging fresh funds and cutting-edge technology to reduce China’s dependence on single-use packaging and its subsequent impact on the environment.

Food delivery and online shopping have become ingrained habits among consumers in recent years, and this shift has resulted in an upswing in demand for product packaging from platforms that facilitate such services.

In China, the packaging industry is estimated to be worth USD 193.5 billion this year, and this figure is expected to reach USD 249.5 billion by 2028. While manufacturers race to meet the rise in demand, especially for single-use packaging, the industry remains dependent on imported raw materials such as iron ore and pulp, placing China in a passive price-taker position. To respond to environmental challenges that have arisen from this rise in demand for and production of single-use packaging, Horen has developed a novel circular packaging model that it has put into practice in China.

Utilizing cutting-edge technology including 5G, big data, and artificial intelligence, Horen’s model entails the conversion of limited-use natural resources into standardized materials that are reusable for 10 to 20 years, which could reduce the environmental impact of packaging production.

Horen is also pioneering an initiative called the Blue-Green Dual Cycle for the bulk liquid logistics industry, catering to non-chemical industries using liquids such as polyurethane, acrylic emulsion, and lubricating oil. The initiative provides safe and eco-friendly packaging with features like leak prevention, anti-crystallization, and anti-solidification measures.

Image of the box packaging provided under the Blue-Green Dual Cycle initiative. Image courtesy of Horen.

Horen’s Green Cycle service can also address the needs of the food and beverage industry, offering hygienic and large-capacity packaging with volumes of up to 1,250 liters each, produced using FDA-approved plastic material. This solution can tackle issues related to moisture absorption, corrosion, mold growth, and residue emissions, which are commonly experienced when producing disposable packaging using traditional methods.

In addition, Horen has launched a box packaging-as-a-service (PaaS) platform and a box management software-as-a-service platform.

The PaaS platform integrates digital technology with circular packaging service networks, enabling Horen to provide standardized packaging services for both upstream and downstream enterprises across supply chains. The service can be easily accessed via the platforms, Horen’s mobile app, or WeChat.

The SaaS platform combines internet of things with algorithms and big data to help asset managers better understand the operational status of their assets, facilitating asset management and monitoring, and optimizing operational efficiency. Users can track the status and location of packages across their life cycle, encompassing their journey from collection to loading, warehousing, transit, and more.

These platforms also comprise carbon management features, including carbon footprint tracking, carbon accounting, and other related services.

Liao Qingxin, co-founder and CEO of Horen, told 36Kr that at least RMB 5 trillion worth of new investments will be needed to transform China’s entire logistics and packaging industry from single-use to circular.

Currently, Horen serves most areas in China, operating 30 central warehouses and 2,500 upstream and downstream network points along the country’s core industrial and economic belt. The company has invested in two million sets of intelligent circular packaging assets and works with large enterprises including Honeywell, Midea, L’Oreal, Nippon Paint, among others.

Horen has also established offices in other countries including the US, Japan, the UK, and Germany, to further enhance its global service capabilities and brand influence. The company recently raised RMB 200 million following the completion of a Series D funding round, led by Zhongguancun Science-Tech Leasing.

This article was adapted based on a report originally written by Ya Ning and published on 36Kr. KrASIA is authorized to translate, adapt, and publish its contents.


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