Reducing the amount of packaging used, or using easily recyclable materials. These are the ways Amazon wants to change the way packages are packaged for the good of consumers and the planet.
The issue of packaging and packaging of goods purchased through Amazon has always been important for end customers. Customers want to receive their orders in quality packaging that is proportional to the size of the purchased goods, protects them from damage and is easily recyclable. Amazon cares that used packaging meets these needs. A team of scientists and other experts are constantly trying to invent new packaging methods and explore the use of new materials.
The most common materials used for packaging have remained the same for decades – from paper and plastic to aluminum and glass. Like most other retailers, Amazon uses different types of packaging to ship products to optimize durability, light weight and the right size, including paper-based packaging such as boxes and envelopes – and plastics such as plastic wrap and bags. Many retailers have started using plastic for some shipments because it is lightweight, waterproof, and allows for less material to be used. And because they are light and compact, plastic packaging has generally led to a reduction in carbon emissions.
One of the priorities was to completely eliminate additional packaging from Amazon. Over the past few years, innovation and investment in technology, processes and materials have helped reduce the weight of packaging per shipment by 38% and avoided the consumption of more than 1.5 million tonnes of packaging materials since 2015, despite a substantial increase in the number of shipments sent. Even during the rapid increase in orders during the pandemic, Amazon continued to work to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in outbound packaging. In 2021, they reduced the average weight of plastic packaging per shipment by more than 7%.
The right pack size
Amazon works to use as little packaging as possible while ensuring damage-free delivery. Machine learning helps determine which products are suitable for flexible packaging, such as padded mailing envelopes and bags that are up to 75% lighter than similarly sized boxes. Over the past 5 years, these algorithms have reduced the use of cardboard boxes in North America and Europe by more than 35%. Certain algorithms are designed to reduce packaging for multi-item shipments, which in North America has resulted in a reduction in packaging size for 7% of shipments since its introduction in 2018. It has also invested in optimizing Amazon’s packaging suite to minimize paper, which is applied to each package, saving approximately 60,000 tonnes of cardboard per year.
Less use of plastics
Plastics are a bit more of a challenge. Amazon uses several approaches to help address end-of-life issues with flexible plastics, and in cases where packaging cannot be completely eliminated, it seeks to replace plastics with existing alternative materials that can be easily recycled. Where plastic packaging is still used, it is generally aimed at saving it and using more recycled material. For example, increasing the recycled content of plastic film for outbound packaging from 25% to 50% in the US has helped Amazon avoid the consumption of more than 30,000 tons of plastic in 2021.
Commitment to further progress
Compared to electric cars, green hydrogen or the new generation of photovoltaics, packaging may seem rather mundane. But when you think about practical ways to minimize carbon emissions, eliminate waste and increase recyclability, packaging is critical. It’s a challenge that Amazon and other major online retailers are actively working on. Dedicated teams work out how to set up these processes in different countries, simulate deliveries to discover ways to reduce the amount of packaging while protecting the product, and explore innovative materials. Amazon is committed to working on this in the future and informing the public about progress on this issue, with the aim of reducing the amount of packaging and waste for the benefit of customers and the planet.