Amazon has unveiled a new automated packing technology, a system designed to decrease packaging for a wide array of everyday items significantly.

Operating across Europe, these machines utilise an in-built sensor to scan items such as video games, kitchen gadgets, sports equipment and office supplies. 

Unlike traditional methods involving boxes and cardboard folders, the new machines dynamically cut paper bags from rolls in real-time, ensuring secure packaging with minimal material usage.

A sustainable leap in Amazon fulfilment centres

By employing 100% recyclable lightweight paper packaging made-to-fit without the need for padding, Amazon’s new machines eliminate more than 26g of packaging per shipment, on average. 

These paper bags, weighing up to 90% less than their cardboard counterparts, contribute to a more sustainable packaging solution.

Amazon’s packaging engineers re-engineered machines initially designed for plastic packaging. Decommissioning machines associated with single-use plastic delivery bags; the company’s approach now focuses on thin coated paper. 

The initial deployment of these machines at Amazon’s Fulfilment Centres in Bristol, UK, and Mönchengladbach, Germany, has already seen successful packing of thousands of items. Amazon is also currently trialling a similar machine in the US.

Amazon’s path to net-zero carbon

Reducing the carbon footprint further, lighter shipments contribute to Amazon’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon by 2040. 

This automated packaging technology aligns with Amazon’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, exemplified by its efforts to replace single-use plastic with recyclable paper and cardboard packaging since 2015. 

With a 41% reduction in average outbound packaging weight per shipment globally, Amazon is forging ahead in its mission to create a greener, more sustainable e-commerce landscape.

Packaging innovation in three key moves

Right-sized packaging: In a bid to use packaging judiciously, Amazon harnesses machine learning to select optimal packaging for products. Algorithms have cut corrugate box usage by 35% in North America and Europe, favouring lighter options such as padded mailers and bags. Packaging for multi-item shipments has shrunk by 7% since 2018. Optimisation efforts also target paper usage, saving 60,000t annually.

Reducing plastic packaging: Tackling plastic challenges, Amazon introduces recyclable paper-padded mailers, replacing mixed mailers. Curbside recyclable packages for groceries eliminate plastic liners. Increased recycled content in plastic film bags will reduce Amazon’s plastic use by more than 30,000t in 2021. 

Industry collaboration: Recognising the industry-wide plastic dilemma, Amazon collaborates with the BOTTLE Consortium to innovate materials and recycling, aiming for a net-zero carbon life cycle for plastics. This initiative emphasises Amazon’s commitment to tackling plastic pollution through collaborative industry efforts.