Amazon Plastic Mailers — A Recycling Cautionary Tale

March 19, 2019

Amazon plastic mailers

What’s worse than opening up a jumbo box and finding a tiny product inside? Not much! All that empty space means lots of unrealized potential and lots of wasted packaging!

Last year Amazon started the fight against unnecessarily large boxes by switching to plastic mailers. This helped save on wasted cardboard and helped vendors save money by reducing their dim weight. Smaller packages means more shipments per truck, so fuel consumption went down, too. Not too shabby for a single solution!

Unfortunately, Amazon plastic mailers weren’t the perfect answer for every scenario. Recent reports are showing they’ve been pretty troublesome for recycling centers!  Most consumers simply toss the plastic mailers into their curbside recycling bins. From there, recycling centers use machinery to sort different materials into different recycling streams.

a recycling facility at work

The problem with Amazon plastic mailers is that sensors don’t detect them as plastic. They get sorted as paper, and workers have to stop the machinery to hand-pick them out. If they don’t, the whole batch of paper becomes contaminated and is destined for a landfill. That’s not exactly the intention of eco-conscious consumers!

Amazon says they’re on the case to design a replacement for their plastic mailers that are easier to recycle. In the meantime, there are steps consumers can take to be more conscious recyclers. If your curbside recycling doesn’t accept plastic bags, you can find a drop-off center right here. Either way, make sure you peel off the shipping label sticker before recycling your plastic mailer.

As a vendor who ships through Amazon, this is a convenient time to redesign your packaging with recyclability in mind. A lot of companies will need to go back to the drawing board when Amazon’s frustration-free packaging and “ships in own container” (SIOC) policy kicks in.

Under the new policy, Amazon will start charging vendors who ship large or heavy items if it requires a protective overbox. Amazon says this policy has already reduced cardboard waste by 16%. That really adds up, considering nearly half of all online sales are through Amazon!

Whether you’re trying to make your packaging stronger or more recyclable, Ernest Packaging Solutions can help make your vision a reality. Learn more about Amazon’s SIOC policy and how Ernest tackles the toughest of problems!