Hipli was started in July last year in Le Havre, Seine Maritime. Eighteen months later, it employs six people handling its zipped pouches, made of a polypropylene plastic, a canvas-type material.
Rigid versions with a minimal cardboard structure forming the canvas are also available.
“We wanted to do something practical to help individuals and firms act for the environment and came up with this simple but revolutionary idea,” said cofounder Léa Gott.
“We are very much in the idea of a circular service. From start to finish, the idea is to minimise the impact of packaging on the planet.
“We wanted to set it up in Le Havre because we live here and wanted to do work we liked, while helping to stop the flow of talent from the city.”
More than 220 French and European e-commerce companies use Hiplis, including large French firms Showroomprive.com and Cdiscount.
Hipli claims that if its packaging is used until it wears out – tests show this is after it is used 100 times – CO2 emissions due to packaging will reduce by 83%.
After a customer receives goods packed in Hipli packaging, the sack can be folded to the size of a letter with the return address visible, and then dropped in the postbox.
Back in Le Havre, the used packaging is checked, cleaned and then used again. When the packaging wears out, it will be sent for incineration or to a recycling centre where the polypropylene can be melted down and re-used.
The first models were made in China but the company quickly moved to Europe and has suppliers in Bulgaria and Portugal.
At the moment, only companies can buy Hipli packaging, which costs five times more than an equivalent-sized cardboard envelope, but the company and La Poste hope the Hipli option will be available soon in post offices.
Prices to clients per package before the La Poste deal were €1.80 for small parcels, €2 for medium ones and €2.30 for the largest format. They will be cut to €1.65 and €1.95, thanks to La Poste bringing in a special tariff for the return of recyclable packaging.
Jean-Yves Gras, general manager of La Poste’s Colissimo parcel service, said: “This innovation fits in with the new solutions that La Poste wants to help emerge and accelerate.
“We cannot do it alone but with e-commerce clients, makers of packaging materials and providers of solutions, environment experts and also citizen consumers, which we all are, collectively we can be more responsible.”
The La Poste partnership means that all its e-commerce clients will be offered Hipli as a packaging option. Hipli will offer a promotional discount for the first orders from clients sent to it by La Poste. Colissimo branding will also be added to Hipli packages.
The company says it is on target to have 150,000 Hipli packages circulating by the end of 2021, up from only 5,000 in May.