Should Amazon take back cardboard boxes?

Sustainability experts argue that Amazon should bear more responsibility for the environmental impact of its whopping 2 million daily parcel deliveries.

The e-commerce giant relies heavily on cardboard boxes. These are recyclable, but they still come at a huge environmental cost. Currently, the disposal and recycling of these enormous amounts of cardboard fall largely on consumers, who don’t always recycle them.

“Just over 70% of cardboard is recycled in the UK, which means nearly a third ends up in landfill or being incinerated when it could be recycled. That’s bound to include plenty of Amazon delivery boxes, as cardboard is the most common packaging waste material. This need to stop and Amazon needs to take some responsibility”, says Graham Matthews, sustainability expert at

Cardboard recycling experts at suggest that Amazon should take back used packaging for proper recycling. They should look to alleviate the burden on customers and local waste management systems while ensuring that materials are reused efficiently.

Creating cardboard requires vast amounts of recycled paper and raw materials, primarily wood pulp from trees. On average, it takes approximately 17 trees to produce one tonne of cardboard. Given the scale of Amazon's operations, the number of trees felled annually to support their packaging needs is staggering – ironic given their company name.

Another key problem is the excessive use of cardboard for small parcels. It’s not uncommon for small items to arrive in disproportionately large boxes, leading to unnecessary waste. This practice increases Amazon’s environmental impact, but it also frustrates customers who recognise the inefficiency.