Amazon leads phasing out of corrugated boxes

Amazon is targeting more reusable packaging for both commercial and environmental goals

The corrugated box, the primary vessel of e-commerce delivery, has been instrumental to the gradual chipping away of brick-and-mortar's dominance of retail over the past decade: durable to ensure that online orders arrive intact, lightweight to keep shipping costs down, and opaque to protect customer privacy and prevent theft.

However, a number of packaging innovations – spurred in part by Amazon's desire to boost e-commerce's environmental profile while further reducing operating costs and increasing customer convenience – could mean the beginning of the end for the tried-and-true packaging format in e-commerce.

Source reduction, right-sizing, & recyclability trends drive packaging innovation
Amazon and other global e-commerce leaders such as in China are driving an industry-wide trend toward primary packaging formats that:

  • can be reused by the customer or the shipper if it is returned
  • reduces or eliminates need for void fill and protective packaging (i.e., right-sizing)
  • reduces or eliminates need for secondary packaging, such as boxes
  • uses less material overall (i.e., source reduction)
  • uses more recyclable materials

Amazon works closely with packaging manufacturers to achieve these goals, and even has an in-house team dedicated to solving packaging problems, with an eye on eliminating the need for packaging altogether.

For Amazon & other e-retail leaders, sustainability saves time, money
For years, Amazon has offered certifications to packaging that is "frustration-free" and "e-commerce-ready". A big part of the goal is sustainability. However, the potential for cost savings is also high as more online orders are delivered in recyclable, easy-to-open boxes that come "without excess packaging materials," per company standards, and are "ready-to-ship" direct from the manufacturer to the consumer, saving time and money in the process.

Driving this shift toward more sustainable packaging, Amazon pays its vendors for packing heavy and bulky products in 100% recyclable primary packaging that can be shipped without need for an additional box. This year, that incentive will be replaced by a penalty for vendors that do not comply with the standards.

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