Amazon is fulfilling a small part of its promise to switch from using plastic bubble mailers and air pillows to all recyclable paper packaging for its shipments. The company announced that it has equipped a facility in Euclid, Ohiowith an upgraded packaging machine that can automatically fold custom boxes to wrap some products, use paper envelopes for small items, and slide paper fillers instead of plastic into standard boxes.
Amazon’s efforts to switch to non-plastic materials come after the company’s promise in July to eliminate plastic mailers in favor of recyclable alternatives. Non-padded paper envelopes are largely not as durable as plastic ones, but Amazon says it developed paper rolls that can stretch, heat seal, have some weather resistance, and are curbside recyclable.
As Amazon transitions to curbside recyclable packaging, it will “reduce the company’s plastic waste and the amount of plastic pollution that can reach the seas,” says Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president at Oceana, a conservation organization. However, Littlejohn questions Amazon’s commitment to ending plastic use in the US, its largest market, compared to the commitments it made for the UK, Germany and other markets. Amazon says it will be a “multi-year effort” to shift U.S. warehouses to recyclable paper.
“Unfortunately, Amazon, in this announcement, did not make a clear, measurable, time-bound commitment, so it is unclear when, where, and how much actual plastic reduction there will be,” Littlejohn says.
However, Amazon’s decision to convert at least one facility to plastic-free packaging demonstrates that it is possible for fulfillment centers of any type to limit plastic use. The company also avoided packaging 11 percent of products shipped overall in 2022, opting to place a label directly on the manufacturer’s boxes if they are deemed sturdy enough.