The new machines are using an in-built sensor that scans items such as video games, kitchen gadgets, sports equipment, and office supplies. Previously, these items would be sent in boxes and cardboard folders. Now these machines can cut a paper bag from rolls of paper in real time, in order to pack the items securely. Each bag is secured using heat-sealing technology, enabling the machines to pack quickly and accurately, while minimising empty space around the contents. No glue is needed to seal the packaging, which further reduces resource usage.
How this further reduces packaging in Amazon fulfilment centres
By packing items in 100% recyclable light paper packaging, which is made-to-fit without the need for padding, the machines help to avoid more than 26 grams of packaging per shipment, on average. Lightweight paper bags used by Amazon are up to 90% lighter than similar-sized cardboard boxes.
Amazon’s packaging engineers came up with this technology by redesigning machines that previously made plastic packages. The original machines were decommissioned when Amazon stopped packing items in single-use plastic delivery bags at Amazon’s Fulfilment Centres across Europe.
“We are constantly innovating, testing and learning when it comes to packaging solutions for our customers”, said Thais Blumer, Head of Sustainable Packaging for Amazon, Europe. “Our trials already show that this technology is efficient, secure and reliable.”
Material science solutions to drive the company further to its net-zero carbon goal
To adapt the machines, Amazon engineers added new components, allowing them to process thin coated paper, instead of plastic.
“Our material scientists developed a light but durable paper which stretches, is more weather resistant than regular paper, and can be heat-sealed like plastic – but it’s all easily recyclable in your household collections,” added Blumer.
The first of these machines, located in Amazon’s Fulfilment Centres in Bristol in the UK and Mönchengladbach in Germany, have already packed thousands of items for customers and a similar machine is being trialled by Amazon in the US.
In the future, Amazon expects that automated packaging technology will be able to pack multiple items in strong paper or cardboard packaging, that's made to measure with very little air space, while protecting items in transit.
Lighter shipments can lead to reduced delivery emissions per package, driving the company further towards its goal of achieving net-zero carbon by 2040.
Amazon has been doubling down on removing plastic and reducing packaging since 2015
Over the past few years, Amazon has replaced single-use plastic delivery bags with 100% recyclable paper and cardboard packaging for orders fulfilled by its European delivery network. The company has also switched single-use plastic air pillows for 100% recycled and recyclable packing paper.
Since 2015, Amazon has reduced the average weight of outbound packaging per shipment by 41% globally, eliminating over 2 million metric tons of packaging material.
Sellers can participate in a programme called Ships in Product Packaging, which ships orders to customers without any Amazon delivery packaging at all. For example, a toaster could be sent in its manufacturer’s box, with only an address label added, instead of being packaged within an additional box from Amazon. In 2022, more than 11% of Amazon shipments worldwide were sent to customers this way.
Amazon’s teams are working to improve the company’s packaging and Amazon continues to transform its transportation network to make it more sustainable, including electrifying its delivery fleet and sourcing alternatives to fossil fuels. Learn more in Amazon’s latest Sustainability Report.