US e-commerce major Amazon has replaced 95% of plastic air pillows with paper filler in its North American delivery packaging.  

This reportedly marks the retailer’s largest plastic reduction initiative in the region and is set to eliminate approximately 15 billion plastic air pillows annually. 

By ‘Prime Day’ this year, Amazon expects nearly all of its customer deliveries to be free of plastic air pillows. 

The announcement is part of a broader initiative to reduce and avoid packaging waste and its multiyear effort to eliminate plastic delivery packaging from its fulfilment centres (FCs) in the region. 

It is also part of Amazon’s long-term investment in enhancing the recyclability of materials used in its operations.  

In October last year, the retailer revealed that it removed plastic delivery packaging from its first automated FC in Ohio, US. 

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This includes the transition to paper filler from plastic air pillows. 

The Ohio centre’s success has paved the way for a rapid transition to paper filler across most of Amazon’s shipments in less than a year.  

Amazon collaborated with its suppliers to source paper filler made from 100% recycled content and has coordinated this major shift across hundreds of its FCs. 

The transition has involved extensive teamwork, including reconfiguring machinery and training thousands of employees on the new systems.  

The company’s paper filler quality is tested via an assessment by a third-party engineering lab.

Moreover, the new filler is kerbside recyclable, simplifying the recycling process for customers. 

Amazon Mechatronics and Sustainable Packaging VP Pat Lindner said: “I’m proud of the cross-Amazon collaboration to make a positive impact on the customer delivery experience with easier-to-recycle materials. It’s a great example of how we thoughtfully test and scale new solutions to protect our customer experience.  

“We are working towards full removal [of plastic air pillows] in North America by end of year and will continue to innovate, test, and scale in order to prioritise kerbside-recyclable materials.” 

The company has also been working on programmes such as Ships in Product Packaging, which in 2022 allowed 11% of all Amazon packages globally to ship without additional packaging. 

In April this year, Amazon developed an AI-driven model, the Package Decision Engine, designed to optimise packaging efficiency for customer orders.