Reducing Waste and Packaging
Waste is a side effect of inefficiency, and we’re constantly working to eliminate it across our business. That includes the waste we produce in our operations, as well as customer waste, like packaging and retired products. We aim to avoid waste altogether through innovation, design, and operational efficiencies. We also offer programs to enable our customers to repair, resell, recycle, and repurpose their products.
Amazon follows the industry standard for waste management, aiming to avoid creating any in the first place. When we can’t eliminate waste through design and other efficiencies, we increase the amount we reuse, repair, and recycle. Sending waste to landfill is our last resort.
The waste hierarchy is a framework that helps guide our approach to managing and avoiding waste. It represents the most preferred option at the top to the least preferred at the bottom. We use this framework to reduce our impact, pursuing opportunities that are more preferred before moving down the hierarchy.
We improve product and packaging design, inventory management, materials sourcing, and resource use to avoid or eliminate waste generation from the start.
We pursue avenues such as increased product durability and resale to reduce waste.
Where possible, we repair, repurpose, and donate usable items.
We recycle and compost to recover raw materials where possible, including food waste.
Incineration With Energy Recovery
Where avoidance, reduction, reuse, or recycling aren’t possible, we target energy recovery.
Landfill and Incineration Without Energy Recovery
This is a last resort for materials and products that currently cannot be diverted to better recovery pathways. For example, some hazardous products and materials must be disposed of in this manner for health and safety reasons.
We’re committed to delivering the products our customers love in packaging that protects their items, while minimizing waste and materials used.
We use machine learning, materials innovation, and supplier partnerships to optimize our packaging. This leads to reduced waste and reduced weight, which ultimately helps reduce our carbon emissions. We’re also increasing the recyclability of our packaging for easy curbside recycling for our customers.
Our Ships In Own Container (SIOC) program is just one example of how we reduce waste through packaging design and innovation. Through SIOC, eligible items are delivered in the original manufacturer’s packaging without additional Amazon packaging. This allows us to eliminate unnecessary packaging and reduce the weight of deliveries.
In 2022, we delivered 11% of shipments with no additional Amazon packaging. And since 2015, we’ve reduced per-shipment packaging weight by 41% on average, representing over 2 million tons of packaging materials avoided.
The longer a device remains reliable and useful for customers, the more likely a customer is to keep using it. That leads to less carbon being emitted by building and shipping new replacements. It also leads to less waste by keeping usable products out of the waste stream. When the time comes to retire or replace a device, we make it easy for customers to recycle their products without sending them into the waste stream through Amazon Second Chance.
Amazon Second Chance offers a range of services for customers to recycle, repair, or trade in their items, as well as shop for like-new and refurbished products. Amazon Second Chance also provides information about how to easily recycle or responsibly dispose of Amazon packaging.
Operational waste refers to the waste produced from our internal operations. Noninventory waste includes used office furniture, used corrugate, and break room waste, among other items that are consumed in our day-to-day operations.
Inventory waste includes heavily damaged and unsold products, customer returns that cannot be repaired, food that is no longer safe for consumption, unused nonfood inventory, and goods that cannot be donated, sold via wholesalers, or sold on Amazon Warehouse.
We also consider waste from construction activities related to building our facilities and supply chain waste generated by third-party suppliers who manufacture products for Amazon.
Learn more about how we address different types of waste in our operations.
Non-inventory waste is generated from the materials we use to run our businesses. Corrugate represents one of our largest non-inventory material streams. We work closely with third-party recycling vendors to remove excess corrugate for off-site recycling. Many of these vendors also supply Amazon with the packaging materials that we use for shipments, converting waste material recovered from our own operations into recycled packaging for our customers.
We’re also scaling single-stream recycling, composting, and plastic film recycling across our operations. We have on-site plastic film recycling systems at many Amazon operations facilities across North America and Europe, enabling us to convert plastic film into bags made of 100% recycled material.
Inventory refers to items returned by customers, items damaged in handling, or overstocked items. Items that are returned or damaged in handling go through a detailed inspection process. If the product meets our high quality standards, it’s tagged as “new” and relisted for sale. Items that are not “new” follow one of two paths. Some are returned to vendors for resale through a different channel, while the rest are graded and evaluated for resale as “used” on Amazon Warehouse. If a returned or damaged product doesn’t meet Amazon Warehouse resale requirements, we work with repair vendors to fix the item so it’s eligible for relisting.
If we cannot sell a product, our first action is to return it to the vendor for resale through a different channel. Where this isn’t feasible, we offer items at a discount on our Outlet storefront or sell them to wholesalers. Where we cannot resell an item as new, return it to the vendor, or sell via Amazon Warehouse, we sell to wholesalers or via alternative sales channels, to be resold via secondary markets. Overstock, returned, or lightly damaged items that remain following resale, repair, and sale to wholesalers, and that are safe for use, are donated.
We became a member of the Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2020, committing to reduce food waste by 50% across our U.S. and Europe operations by 2030. We extended that commitment to our Europe operations in 2021. In 2023, Amazon UK signed on to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) Food Waste Reduction Roadmap.
Our approach to food waste prioritizes optimizing product selection, management, and distribution systems to reduce excess inventory. Where we do have surplus, we offer discounts on items at risk of becoming waste. We also donate surplus food items to those who need them most. In 2022, we donated more than 80 million meals to local food banks and food rescue organizations across the U.S. and Europe.
All U.S. and European Amazon Fresh stores, as well as Amazon Fresh distribution centers in Europe, divert food waste to organic recycling services, including those that support composting or anaerobic digestion. Whole Foods Market is committed to minimizing food waste by distributing it to more-sustainable streams such as composting, animal feed, or anaerobic digestion. Whole Foods Market has active organic diversion programs at more than 400 locations.
Construction and Demolition
We’re reducing construction and demolition waste from building projects. To do this, we leverage our design template provision and contractual agreements to ensure contractors manage construction waste in accordance with our own management approach and requirements. Where possible, we also include requirements that encourage minimizing waste in the first place, and the reuse of construction materials to reduce waste generation.
By donating surplus inventory to charitable organizations, we keep usable products out of the waste stream and help strengthen our local communities. To date, we’ve donated millions of products to global charity partners in North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan.