E-commerce giant announces that it has stopped packing products in single-use plastic delivery bags in its own distribution network in the UK

Online retail giant Amazon has taken another step towards curbing plastic waste across its operations, today announcing that it has stopped packing products in single-use plastic delivery bags and envelopes in its UK distribution network.

The company said it has successfully switched single-use plastic bags to recyclable paper delivery bags and cardboard envelopes in the UK for orders shipped from Amazon’s Fulfilment Centres.

The move is the latest in a series of measures to optimise packaging for the products customers order most often, which Amazon said have resulted in it removing the equivalent of two billion shipping boxes in packaging material globally since 2015.

The firm, which along with other e-commerce businesses has faced criticism from green groups over the levels of packaging waste it produced, said the recyclable paper delivery bags and envelopes were more easily recyclable in household recycling across the UK, are made with more recycled content, and reduce volume compared to deliveries made in corrugated cardboard boxes.

“We have made changes in our supply network that enable us to remove single-use plastic delivery bags in the UK,” said John Boumphrey, UK country manager at Amazon. “Customers are already receiving more deliveries in easily recyclable paper and cardboard, and we will keep innovating and finding ways to use more sustainable packaging.”

The company said it had also made a number of investments to improve the sustainability of its packaging, including developing right-sized packages to better match products, using less material overall, and increasing the amount of recycled content that goes into making its packaging.

It added that since 2015 it has reduced the weight of outbound packaging per shipment by more than 36 per cent, and eliminated more than one million tonnes of packaging material, the equivalent of two billion shipping boxes.

In addition, the company said it is increasing the number of products it sells that can be shipped in the original packaging provided by the manufacturer, with only an address label added.

Amazon today also pointed to a study by Oliver Wyman and Logistic Advisory Experts (LAE), a spin-off of the Institute of Supply Chain Management at the University of St Gallen, which concluded that e-commerce results in between 1.5 and 2.9 times lower greenhouse gas emissions than stationary retail – including the returns process. At the same time, e-commerce saves four to nine times the traffic it generates with customers’ deliveries only representing 0.5 percent of total traffic in urban areas, the researchers claimed.

Amazon said it is working to reduce these emissions further through its Climate Pledge campaign, which calls on companies to set a net zero emission target for 2040 – 10 years earlier than most national targets.

As part of its decarbonisation efforts, Amazon said it is on a path to reaching 100 per cent renewable energy across its operations by 2025 and has ordered more than 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, with thousands already making deliveries to customers in Europe.

Earlier this month, Amazon also launched a new brand of sustainable certified consumer products, dubbed Amazon Aware. Available for customers in the US, Canada, and Europe, the brand has an initial focus on three categories: clothing, household goods, and beauty products. 

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