Milestone: Amazon Eliminates 95% of Plastic Air Pillows from Shipments

Plastic air pillows at Amazon compared to rolls of paper filler.

Amazon announced that it has replaced plastic air pillows with paper filler across 95% of its delivery packaging in North America and hopes to have the plastic air pillows completely removed by the end of the year.

The effort marks Amazon’s largest plastic packaging reduction effort in North America to date, and the company estimates it will avoid using nearly 15 billion plastic air pillows annually.

“I’m proud of the cross-Amazon collaboration to make a positive impact on the customer delivery experience with easier to recycle materials,” said Pat Lindner, VP of Mechatronics and Sustainable Packaging at Amazon in a statement. “We are working toward full removal in North America by end of year and will continue to innovate, test and scale in order to prioritize curbside recyclable materials.”

The transition began at the company’s automated fulfillment center in Ohio and offered a test-and-learn opportunity for the larger rollout. Through the testing process, which included an assessment by a third-party engineer lab, Amazon discovered that paper filler offers the same protection to products as plastic air pillows.

From Testing to Scaling

Paper filler packaging process at an Amazon fulfillment center.
Image courtesy Amazon

Following the testing period, Amazon teams collaborated with suppliers to source paper filler made from 100% recycled content, while also coordinating the transition across hundreds of fulfillment centers, a process that required machinery changes as well as new employee training for the new systems and machines.

“I’m so excited we’re changing over to paper,” said Christian Garcia, a fulfillment associate at the BFL1 fulfillment center in Bakersfield, Calif. “It’s not only easier to work with, but the machinery gives us more space so it’s easier to pack orders. And I’m proud to be a part of a change that allows customers to recycle at home.”

The move to eliminate plastic air pillows is only the latest in a multi-year effort at the ecommerce behemoth to reduce its use of plastic, and packaging in general that also includes: