Amazon has increased recycled content and reduced packaging in 2021


Amazon recently announced that it has on-site plastic film recycling systems at facilities across North America and Europe. | Bret Habura/Shutterstock

According to its latest sustainability report, Amazon has eliminated more than 1.5 million tons of packaging since 2015 and created programs to increase recycling and diversion.

In the US, the company replaced nearly 70% of mixed-material bubble mailers with padded mailers made from recyclable paper in 2021.

Single-use plastic packaging has also been changed to use less material and contain more recycled content, the 2021 report said written down. In 2021, the recycled content in plastic foil bags increased from 25% to 50%. For padded plastic bags, the recycled content increased from 15% to over 40%.

The report states that the e-commerce giant has reduced its packaging weight per shipment by 38% since 2015.

“We are working to send less material to landfill and more back into the loop of the circular economy,” the report says. “Most of the waste we produce comes from our customer fulfillment operations, from materials that are obsolete in our supply chain, or from excess inventory, including items that are overstocked, returned, cosmetically damaged, or near their expiration date.”

At its global fulfillment centers, Amazon now uses software to identify items eligible for donations and works with local community organizations to collect and distribute them.

“By donating excess inventory to nonprofit organizations, we keep usable products out of the waste stream and help strengthen our local communities,” the report says.

Available in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Japan, Amazon Second Chance allows customers to recycle, repair, or trade in items, as well as purchase new and refurbished products.

The company is also working to improve the recycling of materials such as plastic film packaging. Many Amazon operations in North America and Europe have on-site plastic film recycling systems in place, the report says, “which allow us to convert plastic film into bags made from 100% recycled materials.”

“We continue to look for alternative solutions to other materials that are difficult to recycle,” the report said. “In 2021, we completed a pilot project to recycle and repair damaged bags used to sort and store items in our fulfillment operations into reusable materials. In addition, we are working with our shipping label suppliers in several European locations to recycle the silicone release liner from shipping labels to make new ones.”

Packaging reduction is another focus for Amazon. According to the report, “Amazon customers want recyclable, right-sized packaging that minimizes waste and ensures damage-free delivery.”

That sparked Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP), Amazon’s program to “reinvent the packaging experience” by offering more sustainable packaging that’s easy to open, fully recyclable, and can be shipped without additional packaging protection.

In 2021, Amazon began incentivizing vendors to convert packaging to FFP, and more than 2 million products qualified for FFP programs.

“Where additional Amazon packaging is required to ship a product, we strive to optimize that packaging for improved recyclability and less waste and CO2,” the report added. “We are transitioning to materials that are compatible with local paper and plastic recycling streams where we operate.”

The company also supports initiatives to expand the availability of curbside recycling through investments in The Recycling Partnership and the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund.

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