Amazon Relies on Customized Paper Bags For More Sustainable Shipping
Amazon is currently testing new packaging machines in Europe and the USA that individually cut paper bags according to the size of the item to be packaged. This reduces the amount of packaging required for thousands of items.
The shipping giant Amazon is currently testing new packaging machines in Europe and the USA. The special feature: they cut paper bags individually depending on the size of the item to be packaged. This is intended to avoid empty space and save on materials such as cardboard and glue. An integrated sensor scans products such as video games, kitchen appliances, sports or office supplies that are already packed in cardboard packets and parcels. During the process, the machine then cuts paper bags from paper rolls in real time to wrap the items. Each envelope is sealed with heat-sealing technology to pack the contents quickly and accurately, while minimizing said empty space.
The elimination of glue reduces resource consumption even further. By packing the items in 100 percent recyclable paper, which is cut to fit precisely and without padding, each envelope saves an average of 26 grams of packaging per shipment, according to Amazon. The paper bags used by Amazon are up to 90 percent lighter than similarly sized cardboard packaging.
Amazon’s engineers have converted machines that originally produced disposable plastic packaging for this purpose. These machines were scrapped after Amazon stopped using disposable plastic packaging for shipments from European logistics centers. “In order to create innovations for our customers, we are constantly testing new packaging solutions and learning as we go,” says Thais Blumer, Head of Sustainable Packaging for Amazon in Europe. “Our test runs are already showing that this technology is efficient, safe, and reliable.”
Less Air in the Package
New components were developed to enable the machines to process paper instead of plastic. “Our material scientists have developed a lightweight but robust paper that is both elastic and more water-resistant than normal paper and can be heat-sealed like plastic – with the difference that it can also be recycled at home,” says Blumer.
The first machines at Amazon”s logistics centers in Mönchengladbach and Bristol have already packed thousands of products. In the future, Amazon wants to be able to use this technology to pack multiple items in thicker paper or cardboard with minimal airspace to save material and protect products during transportation. Lighter shipments can help reduce emissions and support Amazon’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2040.
Amazon says it has been able to reduce the average weight per shipment by 41 percent worldwide since 2015, avoiding over two million tons of packaging material. Amazon offers its sales partners incentives to deliver orders to customers without additional Amazon outer packaging. For example, a toaster can be shipped in its original manufacturer’s packaging just with an address label. In 2022, over 11 percent of all Amazon deliveries worldwide were already shipped in this way.
Packaging machine manufacturers and end customers of packaging machines are faced with the challenge of increasing the energy efficiency of their machines and systems in order to reduce energy consumption while maintaining the same number of cycles. For companies whose turnover is primarily generated from the production of industrial goods, climate protection is no easy task.
The example of Amazon serves the trend: sustainable packaging is still in demand. For 61 percent of respondents to the latest “Sustainable Product Packaging” study by strategy consultancy Simon-Kucher, packaging is considered sustainable if it is made from recyclable and biodegradable materials. Compared to previous years, the relevance of the CO2 footprint has also increased. For 33 percent, sustainable packaging is already associated with a good CO2 balance.