Holiday Packaging… Where To Put It All?

Holiday sales are up roughly 16% over last year.  And for many of us, the online retail space has been a boon for our professions and for the economy these last 15 years or so.

It’s also been huge boon for the waste management industry.  Hiring in the US has been on the rise for the last several decades.  There are now over 370,000 people working in the waste management industry, domestically.   And during the holidays, much of the packaging and related packing materials that are sent and received across the US wind up in landfills.

popcorn filler

All of those Amazon boxes and even ewaste (new iPhones and iPad Minis make earlier devices obsolete at a blistering pace)  are often not recycled and are simply trashed.

$205 billion is spent globally to manage 1.3 billion tons of trash annually, and some say that figure will rise to $375 billion by 2025.

Fortunately, some retailers are taking steps to make their shipping practices a bit greener.  Yesterday’s Forbes.com article highlights a number of them, including Amazon and Etsy.

But we have a long way to go.  In 1980, we recycled 10% of our garbage. That figure has since risen to 34%.  However, with ecommerce increasing (in online sales) 15% annually for almost 20 years now, we need to do more to keep these growing numbers of packages out of our landfills.

My friend Elizabeth runs the Grades of Green program in my neighborhood which inspires kids and the broader school community to care for the environment.  She writes:

“I think the best place to start is how to decrease the amount of shipments made. One of the things that I find dissapointing as a consumer is when we dont have the option to ship items together.

I ordered [my daughter] some things for christmas from a vendor on 1 order and they sent everything out as soon as it was in stock instead of waiting to ship the 2 items together.

Also, in many cases, it isnt possible to add to an order when we have forgotten something from the order which results in multiple shipments to the same place in a short period of time.”

And Dan, one of my “off the grid buddies” reminded me that…

“Recycling is great but Reducing, or not using something in the first place, is by far the best.”

How do you think online retailers can do better?  I want to know.  And I promise to share your ideas with my clients :)

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