As more and more people begin to shop online, waste from packaging is starting to pile up in landfills, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this phenomenon.
In order to combat the historically high online shopping rates, many customers are demanding environmentally friendly solutions.
While Amazon, the company credited with revolutionizing the way America shops, has heeded the calls for eco-friendly packaging from its customers, just how much packaging does the monumental delivery enterprise generate?
A 2019 report by the nonprofit organization Oceana estimated Amazon contributed 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste globally that year.
However, Amazon claimed the number was closer to around 116 million pounds.
Further, the report also claimed that 22 million pounds of that waste ended up as litter in rivers and oceans.
That’s enough pollution to make us environmentally conscious people’s heart ache.
To make matters even worse, most of the plastic packaging used was either not recyclable or had little value in the recycling market.
That’s just the plastic packaging, too.
The cardboard waste is estimated at a much higher amount, though Amazon will not share how much cardboard it uses in a year.
Amazon has responded to the public reaction to these reports by creating many initiatives to make their packaging more eco-friendly, but what exactly qualifies something as “eco-friendly”?
What Does Eco Friendly Mean?
Unfortunately, traditional packaging uses many materials which aren’t considered sustainable nor recyclable.
The most notable offenders are those used to insulate and protect the shipment like Styrofoam packing peanuts and bubble wrap.
Eco-friendly packaging is a newer idea which involves any material which is created with sustainable materials and can be either composted or recycled.
This can include materials ranging from corrugated cardboard and biodegradable plastic to organic fabrics and recycled paper.
Now that we have an understanding of the history of packaging and what the alternatives may be, how has Amazon incorporated this new way of packaging into their delivery process?
Plastic Free Deliveries
While it’s not a full company-wide initiative, Amazon announced you are now able to request zero plastic deliveries.
The only catch is the effort required on your part to implement this solution.
Before purchasing your next item, click the help button at the top of the webpage and select “contact us”.
You’ll then have to talk with an Amazon representative and let them know you’d like to no longer receive plastic packaging in your deliveries.
The representative will then make a note on your account, and all future deliveries will use paper instead of plastic, which you can recycle or compost after each delivery.
Amazon also created a new, easy to use initiative to help reduce packaging waste as well.
As a consumer, you can limit your packaging through Amazon’s new Amazon Day program.
By choosing this free delivery option for Prime members, you are able to select up to two days a week for receiving your purchases for most items.
By choosing this option, you are helping to reduce packaging by minimizing deliveries and consolidating packages.
The fewer separate deliveries you as a customer require, the less packaging you will receive.
In order to participate in Amazon Day, just select your Amazon Day when choosing your delivery option at checkout.
This isn’t the only way to make greener decisions through Amazon, though. They also have a frustration free packaging program.
Frustration Free Packaging Program
This program coordinates packaging with its manufacturers to ensure all the products are not excessively wrapped or packaged.
Plus, the packaging materials are 100% recyclable and just the right size for the contents.
In 2017 alone, Amazon claimed this program eliminated the use of about 215,000 tons of packaging material.
Unfortunately, this program is only available for a portion of its products and is not available for all items.
The best part of this initiative is you are automatically enrolled in it as a customer.
All of the items which are part of this program have joined at the request of the manufacturer, so you don’t have to worry about how to condense your Amazon orders, much like some of their other programs.
Recyclable Paper Padded Mailer
Amazon has recently invented a new padded packaging container which is recyclable, lightweight, and smaller.
This new packaging method, which looks like a padded manila envelope, has the same recyclability as the company’s iconic boxes without taking nearly as much space up in the recycling bin.
Amazon has determined this new mailer packaging has resulted in a dramatic reduction in waste as well as unforeseen fuel savings.
This still isn’t the only way they’re reducing their waste, though.
In 2020, Amazon committed to making device packaging completely curbside recyclable by 2023, a huge and exciting goal.
They are also working to source all of the wood fiber packaging from responsibly managed forests or recycled sources.
Amazon has already made significant progress towards these goals, too.
In 2020, they already eliminated more than 27 million plastic bags from their device packaging.
They also sourced more than 97% of the wood fiber packaging for Echo and Fire TV devices, which met their new requirements.