How Sustainable Last-Mile Delivery Can Positively Impact Urban Areas

How Sustainable Last-Mile Delivery Can Positively Impact Urban Areas

Tehanie Lifu

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Defining Last-Mile Delivery 

Last-mile delivery refers to the final phase of the delivery process in a product’s journey.  It is when the product leaves its place of distribution and is on route to the consumer. This crucial part of the delivery process is often deemed the most expensive and time-consuming, however it is key to overall customer satisfaction

Traditionally, the last-mile delivery sector has created a plethora of challenges for urban areas. Anything from air pollution, traffic congestion, and issues with emissions regulations, are current challenges for populated urban areas. With online shopping becoming more prevalent, it is important for last-mile delivery companies to understand these challenges and how to overcome them.

Challenges for Urban Areas

Traffic Congestion 

Traffic congestion is already a major issue for many densely populated areas around the world, even without last-mile delivery vehicles. As online shopping skyrockets, last-mile delivery vehicles are only exacerbating the traffic congestion on roads. 

An article from FIN states that, “with delivery drivers making multiple stops throughout the day, traffic congestion can significantly delay delivery times, leading to frustrated customers and increased costs for delivery companies.”

Air Pollution 

Traditional gas and diesel cars contribute to air pollution by releasing harmful chemicals, particles, and gases into the air. A typical passenger vehicle emits almost five metric tons of carbon dioxide a year from burning fuel. Many delivery vehicles used in the last-mile delivery sector are still diesel or gasoline powered, further polluting urban areas and the planet.

Emissions Regulations 

Low Emissions Zones (LEZ) refers to areas within cities or larger towns that have pollution restrictions for vehicles, typically older models. Many European cities and governments have been adopting LEZ programs as a measure to reduce ambient exposures to air pollution, and meet the EU Air Quality Standards. Any traditional diesel or gas last-mile delivery vans do not adhere to these standards.

Reduced Liveability 

A journal from the Transportation Research in 2022, states that the last-mile delivery sector causes "congestion, accidents, noise, pollution and visual intrusion, which reduces the liveability of urban areas and increases the difficulty for cities to improve urban traffic."

Sustainability Concerns 

In one way or another, all of the above challenges create sustainability and environmental concerns. Traffic congestion means more cars on the road, more cars on the road means more air pollution, and more air pollution means more harmful chemicals being put into the atmosphere, thus contributing to climate change. 

For us at Packaly, this is one of the main reasons why we operate. We believe it is crucial to improve the last-mile delivery landscape through sustainable alternatives. 

Solutions for Urban Areas 

E-Bikes and Electric Vehicles 

It might seem obvious, but bikes, e-bikes, and electric vehicles are perhaps the number one solution for urban areas. Bikes and e-bikes particularly are able to clear traffic congestion by reducing the number of vehicles on roads. The adoption of any electric delivery method helps to eliminate air pollution, which improves livability in built up urban areas and abides by low emissions zones across Europe. 

If this topic interests you, check out our blog, How E-Bikes and Electric Cargo Bikes are Taking Over Last-Mile Delivery.

Optimised Delivery Routes 

The unsung hero here is optimised delivery routes. For last-mile delivery companies, optimised delivery routes means efficiency and profitability. For urban areas this means that there are less opportunities for the stop-and-start of delivery vehicles, helping to eliminate congestion. 

Micro-Fulfillment Centres (MFCs)

Micro-fulfillment centres (MFCs) are utilised by ecommerce companies to store inventory in closer proximity to their customers, usually in densely populated areas. Such facilities can help to reduce costs and transport times, and are one of the many ways last-mile delivery carriers collect and ship parcels. 

MFCs are valuable assets when trying to find solutions for challenges in urban areas. They reduce transit times and increase the speed of delivery. This lowers the amount of delivery vehicles on the roads and as explained before, this helps to address livability and sustainability concerns. 

At Packaly we utilise ship-from-store options. If you want to learn more about how our service operates, you can head to our website


It is evident that all the challenges created from the last-mile delivery sector all bleed together. Subsequently, the solutions are the same; each has a domino effect, by improving one area, it improves another. 

By using any one of the mentioned solutions to reduce traffic congestion, you improve air quality, liveability, and sustainability concerns. Not only this but last-mile carriers benefit from greater efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction. This in itself is an exciting prospect for the delivery sector. Hopefully over the next five to ten years we will see the last-mile delivery industry and urban areas co-exist and benefit each other and the environment.