The website Amazon has truly revolutionized our lives by making it possible to order all kinds of things at the touch of a button. The ability to shop from your home or office makes life much easier. There is also some evidence that shopping online can lower your carbon footprint
That being said, there is one problem with ordering from Amazon and similar sites: Your items show up at your door in cardboard boxes stuffed with plastic packing material. When you compare that to a reusable shopping bag (or no shopping bag at all), it can seem like a big waste.
The good news is Amazon boxes are easy to recycle. So are many of the packing materials that come inside your Amazon box. Feel free to order away! As long as you have a good curbside or apartment recycling program, and do leave the house every now and then, you should be able to find a place to recycle almost all of those packing materials.
How Cardboard Amazon Boxes Get Recycled
Cardboard Amazon boxes can easily be recycled into new boxes. To make new cardboard, paper mills separate out all the different grades of paper that people put in their recycling bins (for example, cardboard, office paper, junk mail and cereal boxes). The paper is combined with water, chemicals and new wood fibers and mixed to create a pulp.
The cardboard is washed to remove the ink and screened to remove items like staples and tape. The clean pulp is spread on screens to dry and solidify into new cardboard. The Recycling Guide
, a British publication, has a great graphic showing the paper recycling process.
How to Recycle Cardboard Amazon Boxes
Cardboard is one of the easiest products to recycle. Cardboard Amazon boxes are no exception. If you live in a place where you have a curbside recycling service, you should be able to place cardboard in your regular container along with all other types of paper. It is a good idea to flatten your Amazon boxes before placing them in your recycling bin. They will take up less space, and they will go through recycling machinery more easily.
You can remove any tape or labels from the box if you wish, but again, paper manufacturers have a process for removing those debris.
If you live in an apartment complex, or need to recycle your Amazon boxes at work, it is likely the building’s recycling program will have a large bin or dumpster for cardboard. If one is not available, your community’s recycling center should accept cardboard.
If you ship things frequently, you can always save your Amazon boxes for future use. Depending on how you ship your packages, you can either cross out any distinctive Amazon markings with a marking pen, or wrap the whole box in butcher paper or recycled paper bags. We have several other suggestions for reusing cardboard Amazon boxes for household projects below.
How to Recycle Amazon Box Packing Materials
Amazon boxes are typically stuffed full of packing materials to keep your items from rattling around (even if they are unbreakable items like, say, clothing or kitchenware). If you receive clear plastic packing materials, you can probably recycle those. Check to see if they have a recycling symbol on them. My most recent shipment came with plastic pillow-like strips marked as #2 plastic, which can be recycled with things like grocery bags and dry cleaning bags.
Items purchased from Amazon sometimes come wrapped in an opaque, spongy material that looks an awful lot like Styrofoam. Trust me – it is not Styrofoam. Sending it to your local Styrofoam recycling will simply gum up their process. Find a way to reuse these sheets of soft material or place them in the trash.
If you happen to receive an Amazon box full of packing peanuts, your best bet is to find a way to reuse them. Packing peanuts can be made with either Styrofoam or cornstarch, and there is no good way to tell the difference. The cornstarch peanuts can also wreak havoc on a recycler’s machinery. As a result, it is best to keep them out of the recycle bin altogether. For more information on recycling packing peanuts, see the article How to Recycle Packing Peanuts.
Books and other flat materials from Amazon and other online sites often come packaged in padded envelopes. Those can be hard to recycle because different brands contain various types of materials. See the article How to Recycle Envelopes for more details. When in doubt, place padded envelopes in the trash.
How to Reuse Amazon Boxes
Cardboard Amazon boxes have all kinds of uses around the home. The most obvious is to keep the boxes intact and use them for storing household items or thrift store donations.
Cardboard can be broken down and used in gardens and compost piles. It makes terrific pathways between garden beds, because it keeps mud and dust to a minimum. It can also be shredded and used as a “brown” material for your compost.
If you know of someone who is moving, see if they can use your old Amazon boxes. Large boxes can be great for packing clothes, while smaller boxes are ideal for heavier items such as books.
Pets and children love to play in boxes, although make sure you remove all plastic products and choking hazards first. It is often said that children like the box their toys come in more than the box itself, and you may find that holds very true for your Amazon boxes.