Amazon Packaging in 2013, analysts at one firm estimated that Amazon shipped 608 million packages in the U.S. alone, meaning the retailer sent over 1.5 million packages each day. This is a convenient and expedient way to do your shopping, sure, but it’s also a drain on resources. Think of the cardboard box or plastic mailers you might receive in a single order and multiply that by 608 million—all materials that might end up in landfills if not recycled or reused appropriately (in addition to air pillows or other packaging materials you receive).
It’s a growing problem and even Amazon’s recent efforts to make their business greener, have been hit or miss. (In February, the company made headlines after its plastic mailer became a serious problem for several recycling facilities, entangling their machinery.)
Of course, the real sustainable solution is to shop local over using an online retailer like Amazon to save on resources needed to transport your package across the country. But if you want to reduce some of your packaging waste as a regular Amazon shopper, it’s easy—just consolidate your orders in advance and reuse whenever possible. You may not reduce your waste to zero, but it’s better than adding to the problem.
Consolidate your orders and schedule a delivery date
As a frequent Amazon customer, the easiest thing to do to reduce your waste is to consolidate your orders; as the retailer writes on its website, items from multiple orders will be combined into the same package whenever possible, which helps to reduce the use of packaging materials.
For this to happen, all orders must be placed through the same account, shipped to the same address, and ordered “around the same time,” usually on the same day. You should also buy items that are labeled “fulfilled by Amazon” to ensure they’ll be packed and shipped together from the same Amazon fulfillment center. When you place an order, you should immediately receive a confirmation email with details as to whether the items will ship together.
You could also ship eligible items and schedule a delivery date through Amazon’s Day program if you’re a Prime member. Just add items to your cart throughout the week and upon checkout, select the Amazon Day option and choose your preferred delivery date. If you want to guarantee you’ll be home to receive your items, Amazon Day is useful for that exact purpose, too.
You can’t use Amazon Day for quick one-day shipments, however. You need to reserve a delivery date at least two days in advance of your order, so keep that in mind while shopping.
Read More:- How to Recycle Your Amazon Boxes
Order using recyclable packaging and through Warehouse
While this won’t apply to every item you find on Amazon, the company will ship certain products in recyclable packaging as part of its “frustration-free” program (designed to tackle “wrap-rage”). Instead of a traditional Amazon package with bubble-wrap, plastic or even smaller boxes within that package, you might receive the item in a smaller, recyclable box and not much else, as this video demonstrates. (This also brings up separate concerns about how fragile products might ship, so I wouldn’t order electronics through this program just yet.)
Items that can be sent with Amazon’s recyclable packaging will have a note beneath the option to buy that reads, “Item arrives in packaging that reveals what’s inside.” If it’s a gift, you can choose to “hide” what’s inside while checking out.
Alternatively, just visit Amazon’s website on recyclable packaging to find several products that can be shipped with fewer materials. As we’ve already mentioned, try to reduce your shipments by ordering your items together.
You should also take a look at Amazon’s Warehouse program to find deals on used products. Earlier this year, a reporter claimed that several Amazon warehouses in France and Britain trashed nearly 300,000 unsold or returned products in landfills, dubbed “destruction zones”; while the reports have mostly been limited to these warehouses, it should serve as a reminder that by shopping through Warehouse, you’re giving a product another life and using fewer resources. Just be sure to check an item’s condition on its product page so you can better assess its quality before buying.
Keep boxes and packaging for returns and future use
If the items you purchase aren’t eligible under Amazon Day or Amazon’s recyclable packaging incentive, the next best thing is to reuse materials, particularly for returns. Keep a stash of boxes, plastic mailers or those air pillows around in case you need to ship something.
As we’ve written before, buying in bulk is also key and always opt to buy loose items, like fruits, over those in prepackaged plastic.
And recycle, recycle, recycle. Most, if not all, curbside recycling programs accept cardboard boxes. For air pillows or bubble wrap, use Earth911’s locator to research how to recycle these packaging materials near you which might require a trip to your local grocery or hardware store.