Amazon has introduced its new automated packaging machines, capable of creating custom paper bags. The bags are created at the time of packaging, fitting securely to the contents and avoiding the use of filler material. This new technology will help Amazon reduce the packaging material it uses throughout Europe. Each lightweight paper bag used by Amazon is up to 90% lighter than a similarly sized cardboard box.
Amazon is testing new packaging machines in Europe and the US, capable of creating custom paper bags that adapt to each product, and that will help reduce the volume of packaging material used daily in shipping thousands of products. The first machines are already working in Amazon’s logistics centers in Mönchengladbach (Germany) and Bristol (United Kingdom).
These machines incorporate a sensor to scan products that would normally be shipped in boxes or cardboard envelopes, such as video games, kitchen utensils, sports equipment or office supplies. The employee inserts the product into the machine, the machine scans it, identifies the correct size of the package and cuts in real time the amount of paper needed to package it safely. The paper bag is then closed using heat sealing technology, allowing packaging to be done quickly and accurately while minimizing empty space around the product. No glue is needed to seal the bag, further reducing resources used.
By packaging items with 100% recyclable lightweight paper, designed to fit the product without adding filler, these machines help avoid, on average, using more than 26 grams of packaging material per shipment. Each lightweight paper bag used by Amazon is up to 90% lighter than a similarly sized cardboard box.
Amazon engineering teams created this technology by redesigning packaging machines that were previously used to create plastic bags, and which were retired when Amazon stopped using single-use plastic bags in its logistics centers in Europe.
“We are constantly innovating, testing and learning when it comes to finding packaging solutions for our customers,” said Thais Blumer, head of sustainable Packaging at Amazon in Europe. “The tests we have done show that this technology is efficient, safe and trustworthy.”
To adapt the machines, Amazon engineering teams have added new components that allow thin coated paper to be processed, instead of plastic. “Our materials scientists have developed a lightweight yet durable paper that stretches, is more resistant to weather conditions than regular paper, can be heat-sealed like plastic, and at the same time can be easily recycled in the domestic recycling systems,” Blumer added.
In the future, Amazon hopes this automated packaging technology will also be able to package multiple items into a single sturdy paper or cardboard bag custom-made for each order, minimizing excess air while protecting items.
Lightening shipping can lead to reduced delivery emissions per package, bringing the company even closer to its goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
In recent years, Amazon has replaced single-use plastic bags with 100% recyclable paper and cardboard packaging for shipments made from its own European distribution network. The company has also replaced single-use inflatable plastic pads with 100% recycled and 100% recyclable packaging paper.
Since 2015, Amazon has reduced packaging weight per shipment by an average of 41%, eliminating more than 2 million tons of packaging material.
Amazon business partners can participate in the Ships in Product Packaging program, where orders are shipped to customers without any additional packaging. For example, a toaster could be shipped in its own manufacturer’s box, simply adding a delivery address label, rather than packaging it in an Amazon box. In 2022, more than 11% of Amazon shipments worldwide were sent this way to customers.
Amazon teams are working to improve packaging, and Amazon continues to transform its transportation network to make it more sustainable, including electrifying the delivery fleet and using alternatives to fossil fuels.