Where Does All That Amazon Packaging Go?

As Christmas approaches and you do a lot of your shopping online, you probably buy a lot from Amazon. I know I do. It is convenient, and the prices often beat other options. Also, with Amazon Prime, I get next-day shipping, and a variety of additional discounts.

However, all the packaging from my Amazon purchases piles up. There is an awful lot of cardboard to recycle. I do save some of it; I sell some used books and CDs on Amazon, and I’ve been selling some stuff on eBay recently. So I keep a pile of mailers, and some of the smaller boxes, to be able to ship items I’ve sold.

But I bet most people don’t do this.

When I lived in France, you took your trash to large bins at different locations on street corners. Some of these spots had additional, large recycling containers for glass, paper, or cardboard. So when I had too much stuff, I could walk two blocks with a handful of cardboard, or stick it on the back of my car and get there in one minute.

Now I live in the UK, and trash collection is done at each home – every two weeks, only – and the nearest recycling center is about a 20 minute drive. This makes it much more troublesome to recycle anything. And you’re not allowed to put “brown cardboard” in the recycling bins they give you; they’re only for glass, paper, cans, and thin cardboard, such as cereal boxes.

Part of the problem is, of course, Amazon. (I don’t mean to single out Amazon only, the issue of packaging applies to all online retailers. It’s just that Amazon seems to be the one that more people use.) Most of my Amazon purchases come in packages that are way too large. Not books or DVDs; those come in folding mailers that aren’t too bulky. But even for most of those purchases, the packaging weighs more than the items shipped. For larger purchases, most likely for reasons of expediency, items are shipped in boxes often 2 to 4 times the size they need. It’s probably quicker in the warehouse to grab a bigger package than to try and fit something in the appropriate sized box.

For example, I bought an Apple Watch stand, and here’s how it looked in the box I received:

Amazon packaging

So what do you do with your Amazon packaging? Do you recycle it? What if you just throw it away? Perhaps Amazon should be socially responsible and organize recycling of the tons of cardboard they use.

Note that you can repackaging feedback for any Amazon order. I do this regularly when boxes are too large, but I don’t think Amazon does anything with this feedback.

36 thoughts on “Where Does All That Amazon Packaging Go?

    • It sounds like there are several issues to tackle. I always operate from the idea of what can I do differently? It is unfortunate that you cannot easily recycle brown boxes where you are, and I agree that working to try to improve that situation is a fine idea.
      However, what can you do? My immediate thought is reduce the amount of shipping you are requesting Amazon do in the first place. I understand you might have felt an immediate urge to have that watch stand, but I would encourage you to try to wait until more items have piled up in your cart before “purchasing”. So instead of 2 times a week, could you make it two times a month? That alone would reduce from 8 to 2 boxes, and maybe then their space would be better utilized.
      And, yes, it would be great if Amazon worked towards that issue, and perhaps they will in the future, but until then,this my food for thought.

    • It sounds like there are several issues to tackle. I always operate from the idea of what can I do differently? It is unfortunate that you cannot easily recycle brown boxes where you are, and I agree that working to try to improve that situation is a fine idea.
      However, what can you do? My immediate thought is reduce the amount of shipping you are requesting Amazon do in the first place. I understand you might have felt an immediate urge to have that watch stand, but I would encourage you to try to wait until more items have piled up in your cart before “purchasing”. So instead of 2 times a week, could you make it two times a month? That alone would reduce from 8 to 2 boxes, and maybe then their space would be better utilized.
      And, yes, it would be great if Amazon worked towards that issue, and perhaps they will in the future, but until then,this my food for thought.

  1. “Perhaps Amazon should be socially responsible and organize recycling of the tons of cardboard they use.”

    Perhaps. Or perhaps you should move back to civilized France instead of living in the irresponsible dystopian wasteland of Britain.

    Either would solve your recycling problem. And it seems a *mite* bit more sensible for government to universally handle recycling than for each individual private company to set up a parallel effort…

    (I live in a civilized part of the US, and recycling cardboard is easy-peasy. Zero additional effort compared to throwing it out.)

  2. “Perhaps Amazon should be socially responsible and organize recycling of the tons of cardboard they use.”

    Perhaps. Or perhaps you should move back to civilized France instead of living in the irresponsible dystopian wasteland of Britain.

    Either would solve your recycling problem. And it seems a *mite* bit more sensible for government to universally handle recycling than for each individual private company to set up a parallel effort…

    (I live in a civilized part of the US, and recycling cardboard is easy-peasy. Zero additional effort compared to throwing it out.)

    • In america, everything has to made perfectly easy… Otherwise every piece of recyclable stuff would end up in the trash, as americans are simply to damn lazy to go a cm out of their way to actually do what is right. Personally, I recycle pretty much everything that comes into my home, from cardboard to plastics and miscellaneous stuff; and the key is to limit the amount of junk packaging that you are bringing into your home to begin with.

      If you only focus on what you’re throwing out, then you are missing more than ½ of the problem as being a lazy or uniformed consumer is the worst thing for the environment. Everything bit of your carbon footprint is your own problem, not the government’s; it should not be left for them to worry about how many boxes you want to throwout each day. Being proactive starts before you even walk into the store, think about how you shop and what you truly need, and then focus on not being an over-consumer and always remember to bring your reusable shopping bags and if have plastic bottles don’t trash them as you can bring them home and then recycle those properly.

    • In america, everything has to made perfectly easy… Otherwise every piece of recyclable stuff would end up in the trash, as americans are simply to damn lazy to go a cm out of their way to actually do what is right. Personally, I recycle pretty much everything that comes into my home, from cardboard to plastics and miscellaneous stuff; and the key is to limit the amount of junk packaging that you are bringing into your home to begin with.

      If you only focus on what you’re throwing out, then you are missing more than ½ of the problem as being a lazy or uniformed consumer is the worst thing for the environment. Everything bit of your carbon footprint is your own problem, not the government’s; it should not be left for them to worry about how many boxes you want to throwout each day. Being proactive starts before you even walk into the store, think about how you shop and what you truly need, and then focus on not being an over-consumer and always remember to bring your reusable shopping bags and if have plastic bottles don’t trash them as you can bring them home and then recycle those properly.

  3. Reuse sometimes but usually I recycle it. Problem is, I usually get at least one Amazon delivery per week, often times more, and I end up with more cardboard than fits in my recycling bin, which is picked up once per week. A lot of times it will be weeks before I get rid of it all.

  4. Reuse sometimes but usually I recycle it. Problem is, I usually get at least one Amazon delivery per week, often times more, and I end up with more cardboard than fits in my recycling bin, which is picked up once per week. A lot of times it will be weeks before I get rid of it all.

  5. I recycle most and re-use the rest, like mailers. Some boxes fill up with books I donate to the local library. Amazon here in the U.S. seems to have gotten much better at squeezing things into the smallest packaging possible.

  6. I recycle most and re-use the rest, like mailers. Some boxes fill up with books I donate to the local library. Amazon here in the U.S. seems to have gotten much better at squeezing things into the smallest packaging possible.

  7. If you have a garden, cardboard makes good mulch/weed block. If wind is an issue, put a few rocks or a layer of compost over it to hold it down. Once it gets wet enough, it tend to stay down. Pull off the tape and labels first if possible, or you’ll be picking bits up in the yard later. Don’t use it on pathways–it gets extremely slick as the layers separate, lubricated by the dissolving adhesive. If you don’t have a garden, ask your neighbors.

    If there’s a package sending store near, they’ll sometimes take clean boxes and styrofoam peanuts for reuse.

    Like you say, the issue is that shippers use too much. They don’t care–they’re charging you for it, and it’s cheaper to buy and handle a small number of box sizes.

    Recycling is only one step better than a landfill. You’ve still have to manufacture it, ship it to the shipping center, then ship it to the customer with something inside. If they cushion what’s inside, that often means styrofoam peanuts, which can’t be recycled around here, and reuse opportunities are limited. Oversized boxes take up more room in a truck, which means more driving to get everything delivered. The more there is of it to recycle, the more trips the recycle trucks have to make. Waste all the way down.

  8. If you have a garden, cardboard makes good mulch/weed block. If wind is an issue, put a few rocks or a layer of compost over it to hold it down. Once it gets wet enough, it tend to stay down. Pull off the tape and labels first if possible, or you’ll be picking bits up in the yard later. Don’t use it on pathways–it gets extremely slick as the layers separate, lubricated by the dissolving adhesive. If you don’t have a garden, ask your neighbors.

    If there’s a package sending store near, they’ll sometimes take clean boxes and styrofoam peanuts for reuse.

    Like you say, the issue is that shippers use too much. They don’t care–they’re charging you for it, and it’s cheaper to buy and handle a small number of box sizes.

    Recycling is only one step better than a landfill. You’ve still have to manufacture it, ship it to the shipping center, then ship it to the customer with something inside. If they cushion what’s inside, that often means styrofoam peanuts, which can’t be recycled around here, and reuse opportunities are limited. Oversized boxes take up more room in a truck, which means more driving to get everything delivered. The more there is of it to recycle, the more trips the recycle trucks have to make. Waste all the way down.

  9. Technically (and sadly) the landfill is the way to go for most recyclables including paper and glass. It’s cheaper, less resource-intensive, and we’re not running out of landfill space anytime soon.

    For aluminum it’s close and for places like Japan that have to import everything, it’s a no brainier but for most countries and economies, recycling just doesn’t make any sense except for people (including myself) to feel slightly better.

    But going back to the original premise, if Amazon were smarter about shipping and used less to begin with, it would benefit everyone.

    • Recycling doesn’t make sense except for people to feel better? That and the whole not destroying the environment for the future of your children thing.

  10. Technically (and sadly) the landfill is the way to go for most recyclables including paper and glass. It’s cheaper, less resource-intensive, and we’re not running out of landfill space anytime soon.

    For aluminum it’s close and for places like Japan that have to import everything, it’s a no brainier but for most countries and economies, recycling just doesn’t make any sense except for people (including myself) to feel slightly better.

    But going back to the original premise, if Amazon were smarter about shipping and used less to begin with, it would benefit everyone.

    • Recycling doesn’t make sense except for people to feel better? That and the whole not destroying the environment for the future of your children thing.

  11. LOL . . . stupid question. I reuse it, or pass it to a friend who has an eBay selling business. He can use all the shipping materials he can use. If you got extras … send’em to us. 🙂

  12. LOL . . . stupid question. I reuse it, or pass it to a friend who has an eBay selling business. He can use all the shipping materials he can use. If you got extras … send’em to us. 🙂

  13. The problem in England is that what one can recycle depends on the council, therefore it can be very different from place to place. Here in Hull brown cardboard goes in the recycling bin. We’re lucky. Otherwise one has to drive to the local recycling centre which I do occasionally to recycle paint, light bulbs etc…yes it is mildly annoying but I prefer that than filling the normal bin.

  14. The problem in England is that what one can recycle depends on the council, therefore it can be very different from place to place. Here in Hull brown cardboard goes in the recycling bin. We’re lucky. Otherwise one has to drive to the local recycling centre which I do occasionally to recycle paint, light bulbs etc…yes it is mildly annoying but I prefer that than filling the normal bin.

  15. I don’t mind making ANY effort to recycle and I also accumulate a lot of boxes from Amazon. Recycling, however, requires energy and what I would like to do is to have a way to get them back to Amazon so they can reUSE them

  16. I don’t mind making ANY effort to recycle and I also accumulate a lot of boxes from Amazon. Recycling, however, requires energy and what I would like to do is to have a way to get them back to Amazon so they can reUSE them

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