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11/17/2021

Amazon debuts sustainable grocery packaging for Whole Foods Market, Amazon Fresh

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon is making grocery deliveries more sustainable.

Amazon is unveiling new insulated packaging for delivery of select grocery products in time for Thanksgiving.

The omnichannel retail giant’s new packaging is made from recycled paper and is curbside recyclable. Deliveries of chilled and frozen food products from the company’s Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market brick-and-mortar grocery chains will arrive insulated in packaging designed to be convenient for customers to recycle at home.

According to Amazon, moving to all curbside-recyclable insulation packaging will reduce material waste, and each year will replace approximately 735,000 pounds of plastic film, 3.15 million pounds of natural cotton fiber, and 15 million pounds of non-recyclable mixed plastic. The new packaging is also produced regionally in the U.S., enabling Amazon to deliver it to Amazon Fresh grocery hubs, stores, and Whole Foods Market locations with fewer miles traveled across the supply chain.

Amazon tested the thermal effectiveness of the all-recyclable paper solution in its internal thermal labs, as well as in multiple external labs in North America and Europe, to validate it met the needs of its delivery chill chain. Amazon’s chill chain is the process of keeping frozen foods frozen, and refrigerated products chilled, at the correct temperature until the end of a customer’s delivery window.

In this controlled environment, Amazon tested worst-case scenarios in temperature barriers and how changing the thickness, or “wadding,” of the packaging would affect the outcome of the results. Once the company started seeing consistent results in the lab, it moved to the pilot stage in 2020, conducting tests in multiple cities and under a variety of temperature scenarios.

At the same time, Amazon also conducted secret-shopper programs to validate the thermal effectiveness of the packaging, while collecting customer and employee feedback on how to best pack orders using the new packaging.

Amazon says the new insulated packaging is the latest step in the company’s commitment both to the Climate Pledge, a global initiative it cofounded in September 2019 that commits to meeting the Paris Agreement 2050 decarbonization goal 10 years early, and to building a sustainable business.

In addition to achieving companywide net zero carbon by 2040, other Amazon corporate sustainability initiatives include:

  • 100,000 Electric Delivery Vehicles: Amazon placed an order for 100,000 electric delivery vehicles with Rivian, the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles. Amazon also partnered to order electric vehicles from Mahindra Electric and Mercedes Benz.
  • 100% Renewable Energy: Amazon has committed to powering its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2030, and is on a path to achieve this five years early, by 2025.
  • Shipment Zero: Making all Amazon shipments net-zero carbon through Shipment Zero, with a goal of delivering 50% of all shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030.
  • Climate Pledge Fund: Amazon is investing $2 billion to support the scalability and development of technologies and services that accelerate and facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • Right Now Climate Fund: Amazon is investing in nature-based solutions, which include conservation, restoration, and improved land management actions that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in forests, wetlands, and grasslands across the globe.
  •  Affordable Housing: The retailer is supporting innovative housing affordability initiatives
  • Advancement and Empowerment: The company is increasing opportunities for underrepresented groups to enter the technology workforce and launching, scaling, and investing in skills training programs. 

“As the leader of grocery delivery, we recognized an urgent need to find sustainable solutions that can eliminate hard-to-recycle materials—and we are proud to be focused on scaling these solutions,” Joe Rake, senior program manager, grocery delivery packaging at Amazon,” said in a corporate blog post. “This recyclable packaging will hopefully inspire others, both at Amazon and elsewhere, to continue finding creative, sustainable solutions for customers and communities around the world.”