This week, the Verge reported on the massive onslaught of Amazon’s cardboard boxes at recycling facilities everywhere—otherwise known as the “Amazon effect.”
According to Sims Municipal Recycling, one of the country’s largest recycling facilities that accepts much of New York City’s recyclables, corrugated cardboard—the kind that makes up Amazon boxes—now represents nearly half of the local curbside recycling stream, as compared to just 15 percent in 2004.
And while this uptick may not be isolated to Amazon packages alone, the retailer certainly hasn’t helped the issue with the launch of its two-day and even more recent one-day shipping guarantees for Prime customers. (Back in 2017, Amazon said it shipped more than five billion items to its Prime users, which obviously doesn’t even factor in the number of shipments to non-Prime customers.)
With China’s ongoing ban on the import of our recyclable materials, the increased use of Amazon packaging puts greater pressure on American recycling facilities. More cardboard being recycled by consumers also presents enormous quality issues. (As the Verge notes, an increase of cardboard coming from consumers versus businesses is particularly bad as consumers are more likely to throw a cardboard box with other recyclables that might spill on or otherwise contaminate the cardboard. It then becomes useless as a recyclable.)
If you haven’t followed our holiday shopping tips on how to avoid relying on Amazon or used our advice on how to reduce your Amazon packaging, here’s a quick reminder with your Black Friday/Cyber Monday shipments coming in en masse. If you’re planning a gift exchange during the holidays, stock on up boxes now, reuse them during the holiday, and save yourself (and the environment) from buying gift boxes needlessly.
And if you do end up recycling your Amazon packages, here are a few tips to keep in mind: For one, be sure not to place any dirty items—and those in contact with food (ie. pizza boxes)—alongside your Amazon boxes to avoid contamination. Flatten the box, of course, just to make room in your recyclable bin as well as for the convenience of your curbside pickup.
The good news is that despite some facilities dropping certain recyclable materials from their curbside programs altogether, cardboard is still pretty widely accepted. (You can do an online search for your program’s rules to be sure or use Earth911’s search locator.) You might also search for any rules that pertain to whether you should remove tape from your packages; according to Recycle Bank, generally, you don’t have to worry about removing it as most facilities have a process to separate the tape from the box.
As for the other packaging materials that may come with your package, like those pesky plastic bubbles, you’ll likely have to find a nearby pharmacy or other big-box store with a drop-off container. They’ll typically accept other plastics like those single-use bags and even dry cleaning film.