Amazon use too much packaging – it’s hardly an original argument. I’m sure many of you have noticed it and I know that numerous publications have challenged the retailer on its environmental sustainability before. So why am I writing this? Because, despite all their talk of moving towards a more sustainable future, very little appears to have changed.
Amazon claim to have a software program which determines the “right-sized” box for any given item, based on its dimensions and weight. And they say that this software has dramatically reduced their packaging waste and transportation costs.
It sounds good on paper, but I recently bought an LP from Amazon and the packaging was anything but “right-sized”. These records usually arrive in a thin square box, a couple of inches larger than the product itself. Amazon’s was packaged inside a large box, then this box was thrown into a larger box, and a load of brown paper was used to fill up the empty space.
Amazon’s packaging is produced from 100 percent recovered fibre content, and this is then 100 percent recyclable once used. So, things could be worse. But why do they insist upon using such excessive amounts of packaging for items when other companies deliver the same products safely with far less waste?
You may argue that we should avoid shopping online overall, but this could be counterproductive. Some studies, including one from Green Logistics, have found that online shopping is more environmentally friendly than travelling into town yourself when shopping for a small number of items.
So maybe we should just avoid using Amazon? Sure, that could work. But when the website offers such a vast array of products, often very competitively priced, you’d be foolish to think that you could persuade everyone to suddenly stop taking advantage of their cheap and conveniently quick service.
What we need is Amazon to increase their efforts to reduce waste. They are making improvements, undertaking new programmes “to conserve resources and reduce [their] impact on the environment”. These include their new Frustration Free Packaging scheme and a packaging feedback programme in which customers can review how their items are delivered.
But more customers need to utilize this feedback. Rather than just complaining to your friends (or moaning in your student newspaper…), contact the company yourself. I emailed Amazon’s customer service team regarding my LP delivery on Wednesday 23 January. In their reply, the team acknowledged my request for them to use less packaging for my orders and said that the feedback would be taken on board. If more people pressure the company in this way, maybe they’ll finally deliver on their promises.