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Amazon achieves largest plastic packaging reduction effort yet

Amazon removes plastic packaging
Amazon removes plastic packaging from North American deliveries.

Amazon is continuing efforts to avoid and reduce packaging from its supply chain.

The e-tail giant has removed 95% of plastic air pillows from its North American supply chain as part of a multi-year effort to remove plastic delivery packaging. To date, this will be Amazon’s largest plastic packaging reduction effort in North America and will avoid nearly 15 billion plastic air pillows annually. 

According to Amazon, nearly all customer deliveries during Prime Day 2024 will not contain plastic air pillows.

Through testing of paper filler, which Amazon says included an assessment by a third-party engineer lab, the e-tailer discovered that it offers the same, if not better, protection to products than plastic air pillows. The paper filler is also curbside recyclable, making it easier for customers to recycle at home, and is made from 100% percent recycled content.

Amazon focuses on packaging sustainability

Amazon continues looking for ways to minimize carbon emissions, increase recyclability and reduce waste in its packaging. The company follows a number of initiatives to reduce packaging, particularly plastic packaging. 

These include the "Ships in Product Packaging" (SIPP) program made available to all third-party sellers across the U.S. and Canada using the Fulfillment by Amazon hosted logistics service . 

The program is designed to reduce unnecessary packaging waste by testing packages for their ability to ship in the original manufacturer’s packaging without additional Amazon packaging. 

Since 2015, the company says packaging programs like SIPP have reduced its average packaging per shipment by 41% and eliminated the need for more than 2 million tons of packaging material. In 2022, 11% of packages Amazon shipped worldwide were shipped without additional packaging. 

In addition, the Package Decision Engine, an AI model that Amazon designed and built, is able to determine the most efficient type of packaging for each item it learns about. Amazon then uses this information to help reduce the number of cardboard boxes, air pillows, tape and mailers used to send purchases to customers. 

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And Amazon uses sustainable insulated packaging, made from recycled paper and curbside-recyclable, for delivery of select grocery products. Amazon is also working toward making all of its shipments net-zero carbon through Shipment Zero, with a goal of delivering 50% of all shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030.

The company also uses machine learning (ML) approaches and a combination of natural language processing and computer vision to determine how to use the right amount of packaging for the hundreds of millions of products it ships.

Other efforts to reduce packaging waste include curbside recyclable packaging made from recycled paper. Deliveries of chilled and frozen food products from the company’s Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market brick-and-mortar grocery chains now arrive insulated in packaging designed to be convenient for customers to recycle at home.

"I’m proud of the cross-Amazon collaboration to make a positive impact on the customer delivery experience with easier to recycle materials," said Pat Lindner, VP of mechatronics and sustainable packaging, Amazon. "It’s a great example of how we thoughtfully test and scale new solutions to protect our customer experience. We are working towards full removal in North America by end of year and will continue to innovate, test, and scale in order to prioritize curbside recyclable materials."

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