How the online shopping giant aims to cut packaging costs and help the environment
An Amazon Warehouse in Spain with oodles of cardboard boxes. Image by Álvaro Ibáñez (Creative Commons License – Some Rights Reserved).
In recent times, Amazon has been under fire for their use of excessive packaging. There have been stories of outsized boxes being used for tiny keyrings and books wrapped up in 30 feet of packaging paper. Taking the biscuit is the use of a computer base unit-sized box for the despatch of… a lipstick. Yes, a single, solitary lipstick on its own (how much of the space was needed for the receipt and other bumf?).
Avoiding a repeat of their PR disaster, Amazon has decided to review their packaging options. At present, Amazon uses seventeen different box sizes. These are decided via a system known as Cubiscan. The next system they will choose is produced by Box on Demand which offers a wider variety of packaging sizes. The Battle Creek-based company’s system is centred around a packaging machine and fanfold cardboard.
Amazon will pay for the cardboard in lieu of free rental of a Box on Demand packaging machine. Box on Demand’s machines is supplied and manufactured by Panotec, their exclusive partners. This allows scope for bespoke sizes and less conventional shapes. The company’s transfer to the new system will be completed in around two years time.
Amazon versus Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Amazon’s profligacy in the packaging department has attracted the attention of celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His BBC One television series, Hugh’s War on Waste, will see his guns pointing towards the online retail giant. This is the focus of his third episode, aired on the 28 July 2016.
The television chef is seen in Amazon’s Swansea warehouse, where he was given a demonstration of the Cubiscan system. Whilst present, he identified flaws in the present system – for example, he used a small tub which, under Cubiscan’s system, needed a large box. With the same tub, Hugh found a smaller cardboard box that would have done the job just as well.
A Cardboard Crisis? What Crisis?
Several have said that Amazon is in the midst of a cardboard crisis. This has led to Richard McIlwain of Keep Britain Tidy to say, “Amazon definitely need to resolve their packaging because there are clearly examples where they are over-packaging.”
In all fairness, even Jeff Bezos’ retail giant is embarrassed with the packaging faux pas of Cubiscan. It is good that the biggest online shop on the cosmos has decided to take the lead. Besides being an embarrassment, it is a pain for the Royal Mail and its postal workers. It clogs up our blue bins prior to collection time, and there’s nothing worse than seeing an overflowing bin at the end of your street. Especially if the collection date has been missed.