Online Retailers & Packaging Problems
We love online shopping, the ease of having something delivered to our doors is very appealing. The rise in online shopping during lockdown was well documented. Recently news outlets have published articles on how the UK consumers, for the most part, do not plan to return to their old shopping habits. The impact that this will have on town centres, small businesses and jobs is easy to see. What might be less obvious to some, is the impact that online shopping can have on the environment. When you ask people to name an online retailer, most people will name Amazon, who recently announced that they would be hiring 7000 more pickers and packers to fulfil UK orders.
Online shopping and excessive packaging
The market share of online businesses, like Amazon, grew massively while we were all stuck at home, and for many of us online shopping was safe and convenient. As e-commerce continues to grow so does the amount of cardboard boxes, corrugated containers and plastic filler, lots and lots of plastic filler.
Most people have ordered something online to find the box it arrives in is massive, and stuffed with packaging – why do retailers do this? Basically, it is to save on returns, by wrapping items in big boxes with lots of packing the risk of breakages and damage goes down, and as most retailers offer free returns, they pick up the cost for postage and the replacement item. So for businesses, it pays to overstuff boxes and minimise returns.
Amazon launched Frustration-Free Packaging back in 2008, the idea is that the packaging is very easy for the customer to open, and is 100% recyclable.
They have also started using lightweight, flexible packaging rather than putting smaller items in boxes, you will see this if you order books, cables and cosmetics through Amazon.
What can I do about excess packaging?
Amazon says that since 2015 they have reduced packaging usage by 33%, and there is plenty you can do to help as a consumer, you can report a packaging problem to Amazon and if they get enough complaints they will remove the product from sale until they can find a solution.
The other thing you can do is accept an item in its original packaging, if you buy a toy and it comes in a box, then Amazon put it in another box it is wasteful. If you need something to be a secret you can tick “gift” at checkout, so your kids don’t see their birthday present, otherwise, the original packaging should be enough to protect the product.
However, that is still a lot of cardboard and plastic, we saw in a previous blog that there is so much plastic in the world’s oceans that it is gathering in giant plastic islands. While plastic bottles and food packaging account for a lot of this, our throwaway culture and attitude of convenience over conservation isn’t going to help.