Big corporations take a lot of flack from the environmental movement and for good reason. They’re antithetical to the “act local” movement and generally don’t think global either, apart from those aspects of the globe that affect their profit. On the other hand, large companies can do a lot of good by virtue of their bulk. What better way to get a multinational to do the right thing than to have another multinational push them into it.
Amazon’s recent “Frustration-Free Packaging” initiative is a case in point. Lots of products are sold encased in cardboard and plastic. Worst are the plastic clamshells that are not only impossible to remove, but are dangerous as well. In a retail outlet, there’s some benefit to having packaging that shows off the product. For a mail-order business like Amazon, that just doesn’t make sense.
“Frustration-Free Packaging” is Amazon’s answer. They convinced several manufacturers to pack some of their best-sellers in much simpler (recycleable) cardboard boxes. Of course, Amazon’s primary concern is that the new packaging makes the experience much more enjoyable. Their The Great Unwrap Race video shows that well (and it’s pretty funny, so take a look).
Regardless of their ultimate motive, there are some serious environmental impacts as well. According to Amazon’s open letter, each newly-packaged toy pirate ship uses less materials: 1,612 square inches of cardboard, 178 square inches of plastic, 36 inches of plastic-coated steel wires, and two plastic fasteners. And, of course, none of that will have to be shipped, so there’ll be some space and transportation advantages.
It’s a great idea and I’m glad Amazon is taking the lead. I just wish more of their “frustration-free” products weren’t just plastic junk themselves.