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A teacher ordered 44 books on Amazon. This is how they turned up. Does Amazon really give a damn about the environment?

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A teacher from Sussex who ordered 44 copies of a book for her class from Amazon got a shock when they turned up yesterday – each posted individually, each wrapped in single-use plastic.

The teacher, who has asked not to be named, ordered all the books at the same time and expected them to turn up in a large cardboard box. Instead, she was staggered to discover the Royal Mail turned up at the school with each book posted individually covered in non-recyclable plastic.

Stories of Amazon sending packages in wasteful, over-sized packaging are legion, but here the retailer appears to have gone to the opposite extreme.

Incredibly, Amazon at first attempted to defend the method of sending the books when the teacher complained via Amazon’s online chat service.

“Thanks for taking the time to let us know,” the customer service assistant replied. “The packaging methods we use have typically proven over time to protect books efficiently.”

Protect the books, maybe, but what about the environment? As the teacher pointed out, the school has bulk ordered books before and they weren’t damaged in transit when sent together in recyclable cardboard boxes.

“I understand we have Amazon shipments net zero carbon and in this [sic] it was not followed properly,” the Amazon assistant replied. “I will escalate this to the relevant department.”

In fact, the Amazon service agent massively overstated Amazon’s environmental pledge on deliveries. The company set a target earlier this year to achieve only 50% of all Amazon shipments with net zero carbon by 2030.

What does Amazon say publicly about waste packaging?

Amazon packaging
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Amazon’s website makes specific pledges about waste packaging.

“Amazon has developed a software program that determines the ‘right-sized’ box for any given item to be shipped to a customer, based on that item’s dimensions and weight,” the Amazon website claims. “As a result, the number of packages delivered in a wrong-sized box has decreased dramatically, significantly reducing packaging waste and transportation costs.”

On the issue of environmentally friendly packaging, Amazon says: “Most Amazon.co.uk orders are dispatched in corrugated containers which are produced from 100% recovered fibre content. Once used, these containers are 100% recyclable for use in the manufacture of other paper products.”

That clearly wasn’t the case with the books sent to our teacher, which were swathed in needless plastic.

It’s not the only aspect of Amazon’s environmental record which has been called into question recently. A Greenpeace report looking at the environmental record of data centres found that – despite Amazon’s 2014 pledge to use 100% renewable energy to power its cloud computing services – one of its major data centres in Virginia uses only 12% renewable energy.

NOW READ THIS: What is the Amazon Treasure Truck?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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