Amazon skips outer boxes for parcel shipments


In the Netherlands, Amazon has started shipping goods to customers in the manufacturer’s original packaging, without an extra outer box. This new packaging initiative reduces carbon emissions by making transportation lighter and requiring fewer packaging materials to be produced and recycled. The e-commerce giant is also encouraging its selling partners to pack their products in easy-to-open and recyclable packaging so they can be shipped without additional Amazon packaging materials.

Omitting an outer box means that parcels are smaller and lighter, resulting in fewer emissions per shipment, and also reduces the amount of cardboard to be recycled. Amazon has already reduced the weight of the packaging per shipment by an average of 41% since 2015, helping to save more than two million tonnes of packaging material worldwide.

“Our customers want convenient and appropriate recyclable packaging that minimizes waste while ensuring goods arrive undamaged,” says Roeland Donker, Country Manager at Amazon in the Netherlands. “But reducing packaging is not enough for us. The idea behind this initiative is to only use an extra outer box displaying our logo when customers request it or when it is absolutely necessary. Shipping without an outer box will become the norm for many items in our range, helping us to reduce the environmental impact.”

Extra packaging remains an option

Thousands of products, including kitchen accessories, sporting goods and office supplies, have been selected to be part of this new packaging programme in the Netherlands. All the products have passed drop tests in their original product packaging to make sure that they will arrive with customers in one piece. Shoppers are informed during the ordering process that the item will be delivered in packaging that ‘shows what is inside’.

“We know that customers sometimes prefer goods to be shipped in outer packaging, such as when they are ordering gifts for their children. We don’t want to spoil any surprises. That’s why we give customers the option to request additional Amazon packaging,” Donker adds.

Amazon is working with brands such as Procter & Gamble to design and test their own packaging so that products such as Pampers, Swiffer and Ariel can be shipped without the need for outer packaging. And if extra packaging is preferred, Amazon uses machine learning algorithms to make smart choices so that the item fits snugly inside the outer box, minimizing the use of extra materials.

Supporting sustainable businesses

In addition to improving its approach to packaging, Amazon is constantly working to transform its transportation network from a sustainability perspective, including by electrifying its delivery fleet and seeking alternatives to fossil fuels. The firm also supports global sustainability initiatives and start-ups that can help achieve those goals, such as Terrawaste – a Dutch developer of innovative waste recycling technology – and North Sea Farmers, which is creating the world’s first seaweed farm at an offshore wind farm in the North Sea. Amazon is also a co-founder of The Climate Pledge, a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.