Amazon warehouse with Chicago skyline in distance.

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

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

In the U.S. the company replaced nearly 70% of mixed material bubble mailers in 2021 with recyclable paper padded mailers.

Its single-use plastic packaging was also changed to use less material and incorporate more recycled content, the 2021 report noted. In 2021, recycled content in plastic film bags increased from 25% to 50%. In plastic padded bags, the recycled content jumped from 15% to over 40%.

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

“We are working to send less material to landfills and more back into the circular economy loop,” the report stated. “The majority of the waste we produce comes through our customer fulfillment operations, from materials that become obsolete in our supply chain or from surplus inventory, including items that are overstocked, returned, cosmetically damaged or near expiration.”

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

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

Amazon Second Chance, available in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Japan, allows customers to recycle, repair or trade in items, as well as shop for like-new and refurbished products.

The company is also working to improve recycling for materials like plastic film packaging. There are on-site plastic film recycling systems at many Amazon operations facilities across North America and Europe, the report stated, “enabling us to convert plastic film into bags made of 100% recycled material.”

“We continue to explore alternative solutions for other materials that are challenging to recycle,” the report noted. “In 2021, we completed a pilot to recycle and repair damaged bags used to sort and stow items in our fulfillment operations into reusable materials. Additionally, we work with our shipping label suppliers in several European locations to recycle the silicone backing paper from shipping labels to make new ones.”

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

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

In 2021, Amazon started to offer incentives to vendors to convert packaging to FFP, and more than 2 million products qualified under FFP programs.

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

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

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