Editor’s Note: This article was first published in 2018. Amazon has since revised many of its policies related to packaging. We will do our best to update this article as new information becomes available.
There’s no way around it, Amazon is the king of online retail. And that fact has become even more clear since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to stay at home and out of the stores.
Another thing that’s become increasingly apparent during this online shopping boom — Amazon’s often excessive packaging tends to pile up.
As it turns out, there are options to reduce your Amazon packaging, eliminate plastic, and even shop secondhand on the world’s largest e-commerce retailer. Read on to find out how.
Contact Amazon Customer Service
Amazon no longer accepts reduced packaging requests via email and their Customer Service Chat feature sends you on an incredibly annoying loop to nowhere.
Currently, the only way to request reduced packaging is to speak to a customer service agent over the phone. Fortunately, Amazon has made it easy to connect directly with a live human without sitting on hold for hours. Follow the steps below to have an Amazon customer service agent call you.
- Click here for the Contact Us page on your phone or desktop, or navigate to amazon.com/contact-us. (If you’re not already, you’ll need to login to your account).
- Below the big yellow “Start Chatting Now” button click the “We can call you” link next to the note that reads “Need help over phone?” You’ll then be asked the following series of questions:
- Below the text: “To get you to the right person to help you, select what you need help with”
- Select: “Something else”
- Scroll down to the “Tell us more” section and select “Give Amazon feedback” from the dropdown list.
- Click the “Phone” button that’s displayed below.
- Enter your phone number and click “Call me now”
Within 5 minutes an Amazon customer service agent will call you. (I received a call instantly). If you’re not sure what to say, you can use the script below to get started:
My name is ______. I’m calling to request a note be added to my account that Amazon use minimal packaging on all my future orders and avoid plastic packaging and filler items such as bubble wrap and plastic air pillows.
I would also like to request that Amazon make this option available to all Amazon users by offering this option on the account page.
You can also call Amazon at 1(888)280-4331 and wait to be connected with a customer service agent, the same as you would if you used the call back feature.
This is a double whammy, as you will have the notation added to your account and Amazon will log your request as feedback.
Ultimately, it’s up to Amazon to honor your request, so it’s not guaranteed to work for every order. But you will be exercising your consumer rights and letting Amazon know that their packaging is wasteful. The more people who make the request, the more likely it is that Amazon will take action.
Consolidate Your Orders
Two day shipping with Amazon Prime is awesome! But how often do you REALLY need that item in two days? Whenever possible, consolidate your orders by selecting a slower delivery option at checkout. If you’re a Prime member, you can even choose your own Amazon Delivery Day where all your Amazon orders will be delivered on the day of the week you choose. This will increase the likelihood of your items being packaged and delivered together.
In order for this to be effective, you need to place all your orders around the same time. Noami and I will often put items in our cart over the course of the week then place the order for everything at once. It’s not foolproof, as items sometimes ship from different warehouses, but if you employ these practices, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of packaging you receive with your orders.
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can try it free for 30 days by clicking this link.
Recycled (and Frustration-Free) Packaging
Amazon rolled out “Frustration-Free packaging” way back in 2008 in an effort to reduce waste and provide easy-to-open packaging. According to their website, frustration-free packaging reduces waste by ensuring that the packaging is the right fit for the product, so no more giant boxes with tons of plastic air pillows for one small item. They also use 100% recyclable materials and eliminate plastic clamshells, wire ties and other items that lead to wrap rage. While this option isn’t available for all items sold by Amazon, they seem to be growing and improving the program.
All you have to do to take advantage of this is select the “Ship in Amazon packaging” option at checkout. You can also simply add the term “frustration free packaging” in the search field along with your search query. For example: digital nomad gear, frustration free packaging
These items are listed on the Amazon product page with the following language: “Item arrives in packaging that reveals what’s inside.” To hide it, choose “Ship in Amazon packaging at checkout.” Amazon provides this option at no cost to customers.
Again, this option is not available for all items sold on Amazon. But where it is available, it’s a great option for reducing your Amazon packaging.
Shop the Amazon Warehouse
One of the easiest ways to save money and reduce your footprint with your Amazon orders is by shopping Amazon Warehouse. You can often find awesome deals on refurbished or pre-owned products. They come with free Prime shipping and are backed by Amazon’s 30-day return policy. And many come in Amazon’s frustration-free packaging.
Reuse, Return, then Recycle
The best way to reduce what goes to the landfill is by reusing and repurposing what you have. Keep your Amazon boxes and reuse them for other things – moving boxes, shipping, even arts & crafts.
Amazon also has a Second Chance program where you can give your packaging (and items) a second life. They show you how to recycle each type of packaging, what you can do with items you no longer want or need, as well as how to get support for damaged items.
If you’ve still got excess packaging that you need to get rid of, recycle it. Many shipping companies accept donated packing materials – UPS, FedEx, DHL, and local mom-n-pop pack & ship companies are a good place to start.
While there are a lot of reasons to take issue with Amazon – domination of the market, forcing locally owned stores out of business, reports of poor working conditions and workers’ rights violations – it remains clear that the online shopping giant isn’t going anywhere. So we all need to use our voice and our power as consumers to encourage Amazon to do better.
If you want to reduce your Amazon packaging footprint, follow the steps we’ve outlined above. And if you really want to minimize your environmental impact and make a positive social impact, shop locally and support locally-owned (especially local BIPOC-owned) business, artisans and creators.