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How to Recycle Amazon Packaging in 8 Easy Steps

peanuts bubble foam for packaging_Ekachai Stocker_shutterstock

With around 10 million global sellers, Amazon is an eCommerce platform that online sellers and buyers can’t simply overlook. While the platform offers easy shopping and transactions, it also provides guidelines about recycling different packaging types. So, if environmental impact is the first thing on your mind when buying or selling anything, that’s good news for you.

People whose orders get fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) can open their Amazon app or website, click on any order, and scroll down to see different packaging recycling instructions. Besides that, Amazon also offers a program, Frustration-Free Packaging, which ships products in their own packaging instead of additional boxes or wraps.

Regardless of what option you opt for, recycling Amazon packaging isn’t that difficult. You just need to know the correct procedure for different types of packaging material. So, let’s go through eight tips on how to recycle Amazon packaging.

divider 4 How to Recycle Amazon Packaging in 8 Easy Steps

1. Contact Your Nearest Curbside Recycling Programs

Most of Amazon’s packaging is accepted by the curbside recycling programs. You can recycle paper-padded mailers, cardboard boxes, folders, paper envelopes, packing paper, air pillows, paper bags, bottom boards, water bottles, and paper insulation at your nearest curbside program.

However, it’s recommended to first call and confirm the materials a recycling program accepts. Some may take all the above types of packaging, while others may not. If your city doesn’t offer any such program, you can try the next tip.

2. Find a Drop-Off Location

Amazon also offers a website to customers and sellers where they can enter their zip code and find a drop-off location. This is helpful for those people who don’t have curbside recycling programs in their cities. Also, since many recycling programs don’t accept plastic films, this feature provides an alternative.

The drop-off locations accept bubble-lined plastic bags, air pillows, and produce bags. However, it may only be acceptable for some cities, so it’s better to check your drop-off center’s website to check what they recycle.

3. Check With Your Local Government

Pile of white plastic clothes hangers in a box
Image By: Sunflower Light Pro, Shutterstock

All paper-made packaging products are easily recyclable in most curbside programs. But you must also check with your local government to learn the recycling rules. The requirements usually differ from state to state, especially for preparing the materials for recycling.

For example, many cities, including New York City, require people to flatten cardboard boxes, remove the tapes, and tie them together with twine. Or else the local recycling facility wouldn’t accept their products.

4. Give Back Box Partnership

Amazon partnered with Give Back Box to let people give more and more to charities. If you have extra cardboard boxes, you can reuse them and give them a second life. You have to put your old stuff in the boxes, print out a free label from the website, and get it shipped at no cost through USPS or UPS.

This way, your old things will be distributed among needy people. Meanwhile, you can also write off this donation on your taxes.

5. Remove the Plastic Film

cardboard box and tape with scissors
Image Credit: Karolina Grabowska, Pexels

The biggest concern when recycling Amazon packaging is plastic film. While many curbside recycling programs accept them, some refuse them entirely. This makes plastic film packaging harder to recycle. Amazon’s Prime Now insulated pouches and air pillows mostly face this issue as both contain plastic films.

If it’s your lucky day, you may find an Amazon drop-off location that accepts plastic film. Regardless, you should pop the air out of your air pillows before dropping them off.

For insulated pouches, Amazon suggests you remove the insulating pad from the plastic packaging and cut it open. That’s where the plastic film is. Then, take the film out and take the packaging to your nearest curbside program or drop-off location.

Plastic films can also make Amazon’s produce bag recycling challenging. The same rule applies here; first, check in with your curbside program and then contact Amazon’s drop-off locations to know where the film is accepted.

If you don’t want to spend time removing the plastic film, do your own research. For example, visit supermarkets and ask if they accept such packaging or simply the film for reuse.

6. Reuse Gift Bags

As evident from their name, reused gift bags are meant to be recycled. Therefore, Amazon encourages people to use these gift bags as much as possible. But unfortunately, the bags can start looking unpresentable after a certain period, and you’ll have no option but to throw them in the garbage bin.

These gift bags are made of 100% recycled material instead of plastic. Still, they have a specific life limit. After that, they are going to end up in incinerators and landfills. While that’s not entirely environmentally friendly, it’s still better than plastic bags.

Luckily, many curbside recycling programs and Amazon’s drop-off locations accept reused gift bags. So, all you have to do is contact them.

7. Dispose of It in the Trash

Person holding out a yellow trash bag
Image Credit: Anna Shvets, Pexels

Despite Amazon’s firm stance on recycling and sustainability, it still offers many non-recyclable types of packaging. You just have to throw them in the trash to get rid of them. These include paper mailers with air bubble padding, gel packs, and foil bubble insulation bags.

8. Start Composting

If you’re a gardening enthusiast, you can make your own natural compost with some of Amazon’s packaging. Cardboard boxes, for instance, serve as the best material for mulch or compost, offering many benefits to different plants.

Instead of contacting recycling facilities, you can use your cardboard boxes and other paper products to begin composting. That’s a win-win situation!

divider 1 Amazon’s Recycling Efforts

While you can easily recycle most of Amazon’s packaging, a few are still non-recyclable. That makes us wonder: Is Amazon really that “environmentally concerned” or is it just a marketing gimmick?”

In 2019, the Washington Post reported that Amazon used excessive plastic mailers instead of cardboard boxes to pack more shipments into trucks and planes. All of these mailers (whether regular or bubble-lined plastic bags) included plastic film. You already know how challenging it is to recycle plastic film.

Two years later, in 2021, Amazon tried to address the concerns regarding plastic film use. They even redesigned most of their packaging to be easily recyclable. It’s believed that the company boosted the recycled content in plastic bags from 25% to 50%. For the plastic padded bags, the content was increased from 15% to 40%.

According to Amazon, these initiatives were expected to eliminate 25,000+ metric tons of plastic annually. In addition, later in March 2022, the company partnered with a US Department of Energy research program called the BOTTLE consortium. Its primary purpose was to reduce pollution and design new ways for plastic chemical upcycling.

Amazon currently offers on-site plastic film recycling services at 168+ sites throughout Europe and North America. This shows that the company has made remarkable recycling efforts over the years, but there is still a long way to go.

divider 4 Conclusion

To stay relevant in the market, companies need to focus more and more on sustainability and recycling efforts. While many big names have already achieved this milestone, others are still making efforts to go completely sustainable. Unfortunately, Amazon falls in the latter group.

The eCommerce giant currently offers many types of recyclable and non-recyclable packaging. Many of them, including cardboard boxes, paper bags, and packing papers, are readily accepted by curbside recycling programs and drop-off locations.

However, some that contain plastic film, such as plastic mailers, bubble wraps, produce bags, and insulated pouches, are hard to recycle. Meanwhile, gel packs, dry ice pouches, and foil bubble insulation bags must be disposed of in the trash.

Featured Image Credit: Ekachai Stocker, Shutterstock


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