Come on Amazon... it's time to think outside the box

* 2 min read

When people think of ‘Amazon’, they most likely recall some of its incredible innovations that have disrupted and transformed the retail experience – most notably:

• The release of the Kindle: Amazon pioneered a new market in e-readers and e-books
• One-click orders: simplifying shopping to a single click, or the tap of an Amazon Dash button
• Fast and accurate delivery times: next day, same day and one hour deliveries work in tandem with one-click orders to make online shopping more immediate than ever before
• Drones: whether they become an interesting gimmick, or revolutionise the delivery industry, this is certainly a bold, innovative step

All of these point to a company aiming to be at the cutting edge of all points of online retail. But as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall shows, Amazon’s packaging is worryingly – and uncharacteristically – wasteful. Gratuitously oversized boxes have been targeted by social media indignation in the past couple of years, but Amazon has yet to react.

Amazon currently uses standard sized corrugate boxes or book/DVD envelopes for most of its deliveries. Yet very few items come through mainstream postal routes: most go to drop off points or are delivered by courier. You simply don’t need that much cardboard for these delivery methods – all you’re doing is increasing wastage and transporting a lot of air.

And it’s not like there aren’t other options that are cost-effective and sustainable. Why not use flexible packaging, which takes up less space and uses less material? One example of this in practice is Rockpacket developed by Parkside Flexibles, but why not take this further and make it recyclable or even better, re-usable?

Or how about no packaging at all. If the product doesn’t require additional protection, you can always stick the delivery label on top instead of enclosing it in another box. And for Prime customers, Amazon could consider incentivising them with returnable packaging which is collected when they get their next delivery. Amazon could learn a great deal from brands like KFC that offer edible coffee cups, or Nike which uses air cushion packaging for its Nike Air Max sneakers.

It’s almost funny that the company planning the roll out of the first commercial drone trials (in partnership with the British government) is still supplying boxes far larger than they need to be. The packaging currently used is as excessive as ordering a package through drone delivery and receiving it via fighter jet. The gusto with which Amazon attempts to approach all areas of their retail process has a gaping hole, and Hugh’s War on Waste has made it unavoidably obvious. Let’s hope Amazon takes note. 

Check out this infographic to get some insights as to what effect your daily takeaway coffee might be having on the environment:

CoffeeCup Infographic min