The Amazon Box represents not only the boom of online shopping in the 21st century but also the global trade chains linked to it. The required transports contribute strongly to CO2 emissions.

A simple package is often something we see on the streets, in rubbish bins and even in our own homes, and to which we do not give any importance whatsoever. However, these cardboard boxes have become very important objects in our daily lives. Perhaps, the most curious of us have wondered what the package will contain or what its city of origin or destination will be. However, for the rest of the citizens, it is something we do not pay much attention to. What’s behind this simple cardboard box? A big pollution problem is hidden behind the delivery of the large multinational Amazon, and this is what I will discuss in this post. 

The idea of buying something without leaving home and being able to receive it at the door, sometimes in less than 24 hours, is a modus operandi for many of us today. Many consumers do not even consider the option of going to the shop in person. Whereas a few years ago this was unthinkable, it has now become an everyday reality. From home we can find and buy anything that crosses our minds. E-commerce is here for good, whether we like it or not. This new way of shopping has brought with it new jobs that did not exist before, new delivery companies have been created, as well as new warehouses where the packages that are delivered to our homes are received and managed. Moreover, with the advent of COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic, this new form of shopping has taken hold in the market.

New York City, U.S., June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Amazon is a company that has distinguished itself worldwide for its infinity of products for sale, to the point of becoming the most recognized brand in the world. The warehouses are not just warehouses, but logistics centers that handle customer orders. These centers are at the forefront of technology, using software that allows them to optimize procurement processes, robots that select, classify, transport and store packages and help optimize the supply chain, scanning machines, computer systems that can track items, among other technologies. 

As well as being an important reflection of the technology used in everyday 21st-century life, e-commerce and home shopping delivery also has an impact on the environment. According to Siikavirta et al., (2002), climate change is, without a doubt, the most pressing environmental issue of our time. 

Economic driving factors, such as low pricing, high-quality products, and reduced transportation expenses, can also help a business promote sustainability. The shipment of products from Amazon precisely is carried out through different courier services and is mostly packed in cardboard boxes. 

The trade-offs demonstrate that businesses may make a significant difference and that sustainability is achievable if all stakeholders are involved in the process (Oláh, 2018 p. 8). As a result, all parties will benefit from a win-win situation. According to Natividad Sánchez, director of Oceana’s plastics campaign in Europe, “The rapidly worsening plastic pollution crisis must be solved by major polluters like Amazon taking action to reduce plastics, rather than using empty phrases about recycling”. In this circumstance, it will be simple to devise regulations that encourage long-term e-commerce and foster collaboration among customers, retailers, government officials, and policymakers. 

Home delivery service creates significant potential for traffic reduction compared to when customers visit the store using their own cars. A study carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology (2011), considers that shopping online “reduces environmental impact with 35 percent less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. However, every time we buy from, the objects are wrapped in plastic and come inside huge boxes that does not have any relation with the product itself.” According to a study published by Oceana in December 2020, Amazon generated 211 million kilograms of plastic packaging waste in 2019. This waste includes air pads, bubble wrap and other plastic packaging items used in Amazon’s nearly 7 billion shipments in 2019 according to various reports. The study estimates that all of Amazon’s plastic waste, if put as linked air pads, would circle the Earth more than 500 times. 

The report reveals that the type of plastic Amazon often uses in packages, called plastic wrap, is not actually recyclable, despite the company’s claims to the contrary. Most municipal waste collection programs for recycling in the UK, Canada and the US do not accept this type of plastic. 

EXPOSED: Amazon’s enormous and rapidly growing plastic pollution problem.
(2021, December 15). [Video]. YouTube.

According to Oláh et. Al, (2018), customers of e-commerce sites usually request plastic-free packaging choices. Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, Amazon customers are buying more online and are overwhelmingly concerned about plastic pollution and its impact on the oceans. Amazon’s best customers – Prime members and frequent online shoppers – expressed the most worry and support. 

The success achieved by Amazon is due to the constant effort on satisfying its customers, delivering their orders quickly and efficiently. Therefore, Amazon is trying to reduce its environmental footprint as much as possible, by reducing packaging weight per shipment by over 36% and eliminating more than 1 million tons of packaging. Nevertheless, this means that the containers they utilize will be discarded and reused. As a result, this material will be utilized as a primer in the development of a new product, but it does not imply that it will not contribute to the environmental issue. The transportation and processing of recyclable materials, as well as the manufacture of new ones, will continue to consume energy. Recycling materials will still have a negative impact on the environment.  

Thus the smiling box is much more than just a simple box. It is a symbol of global business and expansion, of (almost) immediate deliveries, of worldwide immediate communications and of climate change.

As a conclusion, system-level innovations and improvements are required in order to achieve considerable reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Innovative new products and services are required, necessitating infrastructure and organizational adjustments. This needs a new systems approach and a new type of collaboration among the different parties. E-commerce may provide useful tools for dealing with the climate change dilemma and customers must expect more environmentally friendly products and actions from businesses. With concern from the customers, and support from companies such as Amazon, these boxes could represent the approach in which things actively constitute new social contexts, working as technologies than can make a change on people’s behaviour and domestic life. 


Name: Amazon Box

3D Model

Creator: Aitana Vallés Martí

Date: 19-01-2022

Place: Madrid, Spain

Themes: Environmentalism, Inclusivity, Technology & Society

Captured with iPhone 8

Processed with Agisoft Metashape Professional Software run on MacBook Air


Physical Object

Size: 42 x 30 x 10 cm

Weight: 500 g

Material: Corrugated paper


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