We have a huge excess packaging waste problem – and Amazon don’t care!
Packaging is everywhere in our lives – we use it to carry things, store items or preserve products like food. Its ubiquitous presence has only increased further in the las few years – and yet most of us don’t even notice when we use and through away a plastic bag or cardboard box.
A recent campaign from Lonely Whale and Point Break Foundation claims that by the year 2025, there will be 1 tonne (a metric ton) of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish in the ocean. (It gets worse – the United Nations tells us that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish.)
So why is this excess packaging problem getting worse? Well, a major factor is the rising popularity of online shopping giants like Amazon. Over 85% of people in Australia shop online, and one out of every ten items are purchased online.
With the increase in online order comes a huge increase in packaging. Prior to the Internet, the logistics for traditional retail were simple and linear – goods were shipped in bulk to a warehouse and then to the store. The system for e-commerce is much more complex, and involves many more hands. E-commerce has about four times as many touchpoints as regular retail, and shipments are broken down into individual packages for delivery – this means around 4 times the amount of packaging.
... United Nations tells us that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish!
Retailers also want to ensure that goods arrive in perfect condition – and that can result in over-packaging. The average box is “dropped 17 times”, according to ANAMA Package and Container Testing owner, Anton Cotaj. So that’s why you can receive a small package inside a relatively large box filled with “air-bags”. It means that the retailer is literally ‘shipping air’. This may be effective, but its unbelievably wasteful.
One major culprit of this is of course, Amazon. Have you ever bought something from Amazon, and received a huge box – or even a couple of boxes – with only a small product inside?
Amazon ships around 608 million parcels annually – which is over 1.5 million per day. That’s a huge amount of packaging – that just gets thrown away after a single use.
Most of Amazon’s packaging consists of cardboard. While cardboard is seen as a recyclable material, the truth is the just because it has the capability to be recycled, doesn’t mean it will be. Enormous amounts of cardboard end up in landfill in Australia.
Furthermore, because a lot of the cardboard Amazon uses isn’t recycled to begin with, it still uses up an enormous amount of natural resources – 608 million cardboard boxes equates to over 5 billion trees.
Amazon have begun attempting to put measures in places to reduce this issue, but they are not very effective yet. For instance, they started putting small items in plastic envelopes instead of boxes. However, these envelopes were non-recyclable, causing outrage amongst the public.
While Amazon isn’t the only one creating this sort of issue, their behemoth status means that their packaging choices have an enormous effect globally. They, and all online stores, should take a long look at the potential sustainability of the packaging they use.
While cardboard is seen as a recyclable material, the truth is the just because it has the capability to be recycled, doesn’t mean it will be. Enormous amounts of cardboard end up in landfill in Australia.
The government and packaging industry alike are beginning to crack down on the use of unnecessary single-use plastics, so it’s important that all such business take the initiative to make forward-looking and innovative packaging decisions. Otherwise, our excess waste issue will only get worse.