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Amazon invests in packaging optimization citing unsatisfactory protocols

GO CIRCULAR

Amazon invests in packaging optimization citing unsatisfactory protocols

Amazon is releasing a statement about how the online business giant plans to continue to find ways to minimize carbon emissions, increase recyclability and reduce waste in packaging. The company says strives to use as little packaging as possible while ensuring a damage-free delivery. - PackagingInsights

Amazon is set to invest in optimizing its packaging suite to minimize the amount of paper it uses for each package, saving approximately 60,000 metric tons of cardboard annually. Amazon has created a Frustration-Free Packaging program to reduce packaging and provide customers with easy-to-open, recyclable packaging.

The corporation has been implementing machine learning to help determine which products are suitable for flexible packaging. The technology tells which packages – such as padded mailers and bags, up to 75% lighter than similar-sized boxes – can be transitioned into more environmentally sustainable options.

In the past five years, these algorithms have reportedly reduced the use of corrugated boxes by over 35% in North America and Europe. The introduced algorithms designed to minimize packaging specifically for shipments with multiple items decreased the packaging size for 7% of shipments in North America since launching in 2018.

More than two million Amazon products qualify for the program, and more than 8% of its shipments will be shipped in 2021 without additional Amazon packaging.

Amazon works with its selling partners to offer incentives for packaging designed and tested for shipping to customers in the manufacturer’s original packaging without needing additional Amazon packaging.

In current packaging options, Amazon is looking into replacing plastics with existing alternative material options that are more readily recyclable today.

Where plastic packaging is still currently in use, we are using less material and more recycled content. 

Amazon states

The company claims to be increasing the recycled content of its plastic film bags for outbound packaging in the US from 25% to 50%. It says this contributed to Amazon avoiding over 30,000 metric tons of plastic use in 2021.

In North America, it introduced the curbside recyclable paper-padded mailer to replace mixed mailers that used both plastic and paper. The company plans to phase out the mixed mailer completely.

Amazon also created a new curbside recyclable package that keeps grocery items frozen or chilled during delivery for its Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market customers. The box contains recycled paper, which eliminates the need for plastic liners or bubble-bag insulation.

Packaging waste

However, according to a study by Oceana, Amazon generated 211,000 metric tons of plastic packaging waste in 2019. The number of air pillows alone could circle the globe 500 times. 

Overall, the company produced an estimated 709 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2021, a jump of 18% from 2020. It is estimated that up to 10 thousand metric tons of Amazon’s plastic packaging are in the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems. Amazon contributed over 700 million pounds of packaging waste in 2021.

Amazon’s plastic

The company states that many retailers adopt plastics for some shipments because they are lightweight, waterproof and enable less material to be used. Due to the material being light and compact, Amazon says plastic packaging has generally resulted in lower carbon emissions. 

However, the company also acknowledges plastics, especially single-use plastics, are challenging to recycle, being more likely to create waste in the long term. 

Amazon is leveraging various packaging options for product shipping to optimize for solid durability, lightweight and optimal size, including paper-based possibilities, such as boxes and paperboard envelopes – and plastics, such as envelopes and bags.

The plastic packaging Amazon uses today is recyclable. Still, it requires customers to take the materials from their homes to store drop-off locations, which the company “recognizes is not the easiest customer experience.”

Over the last several years, Amazon says to have innovated and invested in technologies, processes and materials that have helped reduce the weight of the packaging per shipment by 38% and eliminated the use of more than 1.5 million metric tons of packaging materials since 2015, despite the number of shipments increasing. 

Amazon declares it has reduced average plastic packaging weight per shipment by over 7%, resulting in 97,222 metric tons of single-use plastic being used across its global operations network to ship orders to customers in 2021. 

However, overall the company states it is “not satisfied with current protocols” and is looking to innovate more and continue to reduce the amount of packaging waste it generates. 

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