With the growing concern surrounding climate change and reducing plastics, more people in the United States are turning to sustainable alternatives and that includes wrapping. Research conducted by U.S. Packaging and Wrapping analyzed which major retail suppliers use the least plastic packaging and wrapping paper when shipping their consumer products.
U.S. Packaging and Wrapping analyses determined that between Amazon, Target, and Walmart, Amazon used the least amount of packaging waste while Walmart used the most. Amazon’s packages were generally lower weight.
The lower weight of Amazon’s packages is due to the supplier using bubble-wrap padded envelopes as opposed to cardboard boxes. However, these bubble-wrap padded envelopes—while recyclable—have drawn criticism because the two materials need to be recycled separately. Despite that issue, these envelopes take up less space in delivery trucks resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions during the delivery process.
Walmart and Target’s use of large cardboard boxes with plastic pouches stuffed inside leads to greater waste in landfills. When Amazon does use cardboard boxes for packaging, the consumer products tend to be in tighter cardboard boxes with recyclable materials used as fillers.
When conducting the research, the leader of the study ordered the same five consumer products from each supplier and tested each for packaging material weight and product void gap (the distance between the product and its postal packaging).
Walmart came in highest for both with 70.7 ounces in total net packaging weight and 25.75 inches in product void gap. Amazon was the lowest with 39.4 ounces for net packaging weight and 24.75 inches in product void gap.
A large proportion of mailed products and food come in unnecessary and wasteful packaging. Environmental science shows the disastrous effects the packaging industry has on the planet and the materials that are the most detrimental. Below are five packaging examples that are harmful to the environment.
Single-use yogurt cups are recyclable, however, the smaller the product the less recyclable it is. Grocery stores tend to have lots of single-serving food packaging with plastic wrap on their store shelves such as cheese sticks. Coffee shops are also notorious culprits for single-serving products. However, just like carrying a reusable water bottle, consumers have started to bring reusable coffee mugs when they grab a cup of joe.
Russian Doll Approach to Packaging
Online suppliers seem to love this packaging method. Referred to as the “Russian doll” approach, you’ll often find consumer products wrapped in a large box and then another smaller box and another smaller box and so on until you finally unveil the product you ordered.
Single-use plastics are one of the biggest threats to our environment, with plastics filling up landfills and oceans. Plastic bottles are still commonly found on store shelves despite widespread acknowledgment of plastic’s damaging effects.
Fast-food chains often wrap their take-out in recyclable food packaging like cardboard boxes. But once pizza grease and cheese sticks to the cardboard box, it’s no longer recyclable.
Food wrappers like chip bags are also often wrapped in layers and layers of foil and plastics. Bread wrappers and other food products on the shelves at your local grocery store are also often wrapped in plastics. Major U.S. manufacturers love to package their products with these layers, however, this method of packaging is not recyclable.
Additionally, chemicals found in food packaging have proven to be harmful to the environment. Perchlorate—a chemical used in rocket fuel—is used as an additive in food packaging and for storing and transporting items like cereals. Environmental groups sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019 for allowing the continued use of perchlorate in food packaging.
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