Amazon Is Shifting to Recycled Paper Filling for Packages

Retail Giant Switches From Plastic Air Pillows in North America
Amazon fulfillment
Amazon employees use recycled paper to fill boxes. (Amazon via X)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Amazon is shifting from the plastic air pillows used for packaging in North America to recycled paper because it’s more environmentally sound, and it says paper just works better.

The company said June 20 that it already has replaced 95% of the plastic air pillows with paper filler in North America and is working toward complete removal by year’s end.

“We want to ensure that customers receive their items undamaged, while using as little packaging as possible to avoid waste, and prioritizing recyclable materials,” Amazon said.

Amazon ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies in North America and No. 1 on the TT Top 50 Global Freight carriers list. It also ranks No. 9 on the TT Top 100 private carriers list.

It is the company’s largest plastic packaging reduction effort in North America to date and will remove almost 15 billion plastic air pillows from use annually.

Almost all customer deliveries for Prime Day this year, which happens next month, will contain plastic no air pillows, according to Amazon.

Amazon began transition away from plastic air pillows in October at an automated fulfillment center in Ohio. The company said that it was able to test and learn at the center there, which helped it move quickly on transitioning to recycled paper filling.

The transition process included changing out machinery and training employees on new systems and machines.

Amazon discovered through testing that the paper filler, which is made from 100% recyclable content and is curbside recyclable, offers the same, if not better protection during shipping compared with plastic air pillows, the company said.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

Christian Garcia, who works at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bakersfield, Calif., said in a release that the paper filler is easier to work with and that the machinery gives staff more space so that it’s easier to pack orders.

Ongoing efforts to reduce waste include a campaign to ship items without any additional packaging, the company said. In 2022, 11% of all of Amazon’s packages shipped worldwide were without added delivery packaging.

Other efforts include piloting new technology with artificial intelligence and robotics company Glacier to use AI-powered robots to automate the sorting of recyclables and collect real-time data on recycling streams for companies. It’s also partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy on new materials and recycling programs.