Amazon and Wasteful Packaging

I stick of lip balm; that’s all I got in this box from Amazon today:

Lip balm

This was part of another order, whose items came in other packaging, and I had expected that, at a minimum, if it couldn’t go into the same box, it would go into one of those cardboard envelopes they use.

This isn’t new; I’m sure everyone who orders things from Amazon regularly has had similar experiences. But still, this is probably the most egregious example of waste I have seen.

Amazon says:

Amazon has developed a software program that determines the “right-sized” box for any given item to be shipped to a customer, based on that item’s dimensions and weight. As a result, the number of packages delivered in a wrong-sized box has decreased dramatically, significantly reducing packaging waste and transportation costs.

In 2009, Amazon launched its Packaging Feedback program, which allows customers to provide direct feedback on the packaging of their order and to upload images of their packages. Their feedback is used to improve product and Amazon packaging. Learn more at

Alas, they have removed the ability to upload photos of wasteful packaging.

I ordered this from Amazon because it was about £1.30 less than from my supermarket. But I won’t order any small items from Amazon again. This is simply disgraceful.

12 thoughts on “Amazon and Wasteful Packaging

  1. I just had a similar experience for a 4 Cards of five Sony CR2032 Lithium Coin Cells in a box about the same size.

  2. Do people never go to the grocery or drug store? They have all this stuff there. Why are people ordering one stick of lip balm online and then blaming Amazon? Let’s take a bit of personal responsibility. Stop ordering little stuff like that online and buy it from your local store. I never buy from Amazon and I can easily get everything I need. Sorry to rant, but Amazon can’t save the planet for you.

    • As I said, it’s about 5% more expensive at my grocery store. Since I had something else to order from Amazon, I figured they’d just toss it in the same box.

      • I understand that you hoped they would not do something like this when you placed it as a throw-in on a larger order. They probably had the lip balm at a different warehouse than the other stuff you bought.

        I was trying to ask a larger question, and not trying to call you out specifically. I’m sorry it came across that way; that was 100% my fault in the thoughtless way I wrote my comment.

        The real question I wanted to ask: is the convenience offered by Amazon worth the damage to the environment? Not to mention the constant reports of ill treatment by their employees, and the fact that they pay zero dollars in taxes on billions in profit? They don’t seem beneficial to our country or our world. Perhaps we should vote with our wallets and stop shopping there? Or are they too big to topple, and therefore we have to try and work with them to help our environment?

        • You are definitely right. However, given where I live — a few miles from a small town – any shopping trip would require about a half hour of driving (15 minutes each way) and a great deal of time and hassle. Amazon is a lifesaver when you’re not in the city, or not near good shopping. As much as possible, I buy things from other merchants, if they offer the same price and delivery. For example, yesterday I ordered a waffle iron, and I intentionally looked for someone other than Amazon who was selling it. In this case, I found it at the same price, with delivery just taking one day longer.

          • It is quite possible that in some cases, Amazon could be better for the environment than going to a store. If your packages come along with your mail or other deliveries in your area, and it saves you 15 miles of driving, then perhaps it is a net gain.

            As a city dweller, I often see people getting all sorts of stuff on Amazon that they could get for a similar price if they’d simply walked across the street to CVS. Good to see a rural perspective on the positive aspects of online ordering + delivery.

            • Exactly. If I had other options locally I would use them. They aren’t delivered with the mail, usually, but by amazon subcontractors, but they each deliver dozens of packages a day. So environmentally, having one vehicle instead of, say, 50 is a huge gain.

  3. We sell classical music scores from our small publishing company. We are horrified at the number of times Amazon orders a score from us to keep at a fulfillment center, only to send it back to us a few weeks later, in such damaged condition that is unsalable.

    Then, 2 or 3 days later, they re-order the same thing they just returned! We pay the shipping to them, but when they ship it back to us as for some unknowable reason, they go as small and cheap as possible. It gets squashed into into a box that is too short, bending it and tearing the cover. No orchestral musician wants a 10 x 13 inch score that has been so bent that it won’t stay on the music stand. Suicide leaps off a music stand in mid-concert are problematic for the performer.

    Amazon demands we sell them everything at a 55% discount, far more than the average music dealer expects. They ruin our stock. They mess up our listings. Their duplicate-eliminating bots deleted over 7,000 of our listings overnight because they can’t understand that Mozart’s Symphony #40 Violin Part 1 is not the same as Mozart’s Symphony #40 Violin Part 2, or even the cello for that matter. Yet they wouldn’t give us a unique ASIN (Amazon Specific Identification Number) for each part.

    For years they insisted we had to give them ISBN numbers, which are only for books. They refused to believe that music publishers are required to use ISMN numbers instead, which in the States are only allocated and released through the US Library of Congress. Mighty Amazon wouldn’t respond to the US Library of Congress Chief Librarian’s explanation. it took years of fighting. The “duplicate-removing bots” chomped through and deleted, or worse, merged, tens of thousands of listings a week for 3 years.

    And ah, the farce of Ratings. Not only are they full of fake positive ones, they are often not even connected to the right product! I fail to see how a review for a toaster ends up as a verified sale of a music score. Or any of the many other (often negative) reviews for items that we don’t even sell. Yet Amazon linked them to us, then threatened to cancel our seller account for low ratings!

    So I they are such a pain in the ass, why do we still sell with them? Because they’ve got us in a strangle hold.

    When you search for an item, where does it pop up first in the listings? Amazon. If we don’t list our scores there as well as on our own site, then some competitor’s Amazon listing shows up first. For customers, it’s easier to shop and check out on one site, rather than have to hunt around and check out multiple ones, or fill out your shipping and payment info on multiple sites.

    So, as sellers, we all hate Amazon. But they’ve got us over a barrel. And the irony is not lost on me that I often shop there, because it’s convenient. I have neither the time nor the gas to get everything in person. I shop locally as much as possible. I call local stores to see if they have the item in I need, before I purchase online. But when they don’t, I break down and order from “Big A*****.” Then curse that the set of quart-sized silicone re-usable food bags arrived in a ten-gallon box, while my 10 x 13 inch manuscript was returned crammed into a pint sized one.

  4. What’s the harm? Throw it in the trash. Today’s landfills are marvels. They hold vastly more than did those of the past, they are lined to prevent leakage, they consume minuscule land space, they are increasingly used to generate power, and when they are full simply cover them with dirt and plants. Recycling is much more problematic. It loses money, much of American recyclables have been sent to China with outcome unknown, and other items assumed to be recyclables have been sent to landfills after all. The waste obsession is just another anti-science phobia.

  5. I ordered 6 small bottles of Root Beer and it came in two massive boxes (about 3 ft x 2 ft x 1 ft size) , with each rootbeer packed in boxes the size of a shoebox. I only got it because it is a few pence cheaper than from the store. I’ll likely cancel my subscription.

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