1. Merchandising

Amazon is Working to Reduce Overreliance on its Signature Brown Boxes

Every year, the U.S. goes through enough cardboard boxes for shipping to pave a one-mile-wide road from New York City to Los Angeles three times, or build a mile-high cardboard wall around the entire continental U.S. Getting rid of overreliance on Amazon.com’s signature brown box is a key goal of the retail giant and its consumer partners, reports CNBC. In 2022, 11 percent of Amazon orders worldwide were sent in original manufacturer packaging. The company has yet to release its 2023 figure for the initiative designed to get rid of Amazon’s signature brown box, called the Ships in Product Packaging program.

Total Retail’s Take: The abundance of packaging needed to keep up with consumers’ e-commerce purchases only continues to grow; however, more retailers and brands are now working to address the issue. Amazon initially launched the Ships in Product Packaging program in 2023 for vendors, and in February 2024 opened it to sellers. It identifies products that might work, contacts vendors and then, to ensure that packages won’t be damaged during delivery, Amazon works with those companies to test product packaging. Some companies that sell on Amazon say they will no longer develop new products that can’t be shipped without additional Amazon boxing.

Reducing packaging has multiple benefits, including saving money and reducing waste, not to mention growing consumer consciousness around retail waste. Automation and machine learning play a role in minimizing packaging. “The more that we can automate, the more control we have over ‘rightsizing,’ said Pat Lindner, vice president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging at Amazon. “We can really wrap or box to any size, dimension or product, provided that we can measure it properly with cameras. We think this is good for the environment. We think this is good for customers because it’s less material to have to deal with at home.”

Not all items can ship without a box or mailer. For that, Amazon has been working to reduce packaging, especially plastic — swapping out plastic bubble mailers with paper mailers and plastic bubbles with paper. Amazon still has a long way to go to reach its reduced packaging goals, as more than 85 percent of packages still shipped in branded brown boxes last year.

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