Is This the Best Amazon and Chewy Can Do Packing Boxes?

Mish

In light of increasing demand for cardboard with prices soaring to record levels, I have questions.

Can Amazon Do better? 

The lead image shows a cardboard box at least 60% larger than it needs to be.  

What About Chewy?

Chewy Box

A small package of pills came in that huge box.

Surging Online Orders

Surging Online Orders

Never More Expensive

The Wall Street Journal reports Cardboard Boxes Have Never Been in More Demand—or More Expensive

It wasn’t just you. Americans consumed more corrugated cardboard boxes than ever last year.

Stay-at-home orders and stimulus checks fueled a banner year for e-commerce and a run on shipping boxes.

U.S. producers in 2020 churned out nearly 407 billion square feet of corrugated product, from dot.com delivery boxes to watermelon crates, according to the Fibre Box Association. The year-over-year rise was 3.4%, equivalent to about 477 square miles of additional corrugated board. Enough to cover New York City and then some.

Already contending with record wood prices, scarce shipping containers and fast-rising freight, cabinetmaker John K. Morgan now faces more costly corrugated board. His Green Forest Cabinetry is paying 22% more for boxes than a year ago. Bales of corrugated board, which are folded into custom packaging at the company’s Chesapeake, Va., factory, cost nearly 10% more and he has been warned by his supplier that prices are headed higher.

International Paper Co. said in December that it was spinning off its paper business to focus on containerboard, of which it is North America’s largest producer.

“The overwhelming demand for containerboard far outweighs the opportunities for paper,” Packaging Corp. of America CEO Mark Kowlzan said.

Can Companies Do Better Packing Boxes?

To prevent such questions, maybe we need a label frequently seen on bags of potato chips and snacks:

"Packed as Full as Practical by Modern Electronic Equipment."

That should take care of such questions.

Mish

Comments (41)
No. 1-18
PecuniaNonOlet
PecuniaNonOlet

My biggest gripe with Amazon is the boxes. I ordered a magazine (special issue) on Amazon. It came in a box then another box then a plastic sleeve and finally the magzine. Three layers of waste and it is all on me and the free market because there are little alternatives.

ohno
ohno

Here's exactly what's wrong as i've already looked into this: employees are pushed to the point they are grabbing whatever the hell they can get their hands on to meet production goals. I don't recall the exact boxes per minute but it's pretty stupid. Chewy is the same as Amazon in terms of working people to death.

mrutkaus
mrutkaus

It's a rough life.

frozeninthenorth
frozeninthenorth

20 years ago in Germany, the country imposed draconian rules on the amount of garbage a house could produce and have disposed of. Guess what consumers began unboxing their purchases at the store. Guess what the result of that was, store demanded that suppliers reduce the quantity of packaging.

Packaging will remain a problem as long as it's someone else's problem. I don't think for one minute that Amerca or Amazon will do anything about this. There is zero incentive, in fact at Amazon the objective is speed and therefore if the box is too large you just add some packing material.

Never count on people's selflessness to do the right thing, create the right economic environment.

Greenmountain
Greenmountain

I actually try to buy in stores to eliminate packaging. For those of us who pay for trash disposal by the bag, I avoid all packaging as I have no interest in paying the disposal costs. Amazon has been off my list of on-line shopping when that is required because of the excess packaging.

Sechel
Sechel

You're ahead of the curve on this. Wasted packaging cost. But not knowing an awful lot about this , is it Amazon or the companies that ship through Amazon? isn' Amazon the front person?

Eddie_T
Eddie_T

Most of the time my Amazon packages arrive fairly reasonably packed. No choice but to use them.....I looked all over town for a pool pump motor last week....Per one Leslie’s employee I spoke to on the phone, “ We haven’t been able to get those for months”.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had a winter storm related pool pump failure here...broken limbs and twigs in the water put a strain on the pump and ate the bearings in the motor.....in the old days I could have had the bearings replaced....good luck on finding somebody to do that now.

The Amazon price was almost $100 cheaper than Leslie’s anyway ( paid $169 for a new 1 hp motor. Not too shabby.). The only thing I buy from Leslie's from now on is chlorine.

I rebuilt the pump myself. Parts to do that typically run $20....2 easily replaceable pump seals and a few O-rings...I can rebuild one in 30 minutes now, after doing it a couple of times.

I’d have paid north of $500 to get a repair guy to do it....if I could find one who isn’t snowed under with work. It cost me $200...so yeah...I’ll still be using Amazon.

One-armed Economist
One-armed Economist

In the inevitable greening of retail and retail distribution IMHO sooner or later I believe the "price" (price vs unit, say cost per ounce) of an item should either have negative price/scale symmetry (the cost per ounce) should not have negative skew for large unit size packaging, or positive skew for larger unit size packaging. I know it sounds self-evident, but we see it all the time where negative skew to unit size exists. I.e. like when a six pack of pop can be on sale such that the cost per ounce of pop is cheaper for 6 cans that a 2 liter unit plastic bottle. This wrongly incentivizes packaging waste.

I believe in time retail will only allow negative price/volume skew for vendor justifiable exceptions. That being the case why not be a leader and invoke the more green and inevitable "no negative price/scale symmetry" policy today, and push the policy back on vendors. It should be favorably scale accretive and green for all.

willem1
willem1

I have almost completely cut the cord with Amazon, and buy books and most other stuff from other vendors. One thing I've noticed is that those other vendors are much more conscientious in how they pack stuff. I used to receive books from Amazon that were packed so badly that the "slop" allowed them to knock around in the packaging to the point that they were damaged.

Sechel
Sechel

Isn't Chewy the pet company? I get all my dog supplies from them

Sechel
Sechel

My Dad was a trucker. His clients would never get choose the best packaging for the merchandise but often were gaming the rates. I don't think that's what's going on, but its a possibility?

Sechel
Sechel

Seems like not much has changed since this article was written

Retailers also want to ensure that goods arrive in perfect condition – and that can result in over-packaging. The average box is “dropped 17 times”, according to ANAMA Package and Container Testing owner, Anton Cotaj. So that’s why you can receive a small package inside a relatively large box filled with “air-bags”. It means that the retailer is literally “shipping air”, as the director of packaging program at Rutgers University, Hae Chang Gea, puts it. Effective, but wasteful.

An article by Pam Baker on “E-commerce packaging waste becoming a bigger issue” helps to unpack the problem. Prior to the Internet, the logistics for traditional retail were simple and linear – goods were shipped in bulk to a warehouse and then to the store. The system for e-commerce is much more complex, and involves many more hands. As a 2017 white paper entitled “Optimizing Packaging for an E-commerce World” reminds us, e-commerce has about four times as many touch-points as regular retail, and shipments are broken down into individual packages for delivery.

strataland
strataland

Given the rise in cardboard box use in shipping, it seems like just a matter of time before some entrepreneur figures out how to re-cycle/re-use these boxes before they go into the trash.

Doug78
Doug78

What probably happened is that at the warehouse they ran out of smaller boxes and had to use a large one in order for you to get it on time. Delivery on time is more important to most people than the size of the box it comes in and if you have Amazon Prime then you are paying for fast delivery.

KidHorn
KidHorn

Boxes are a problem, but the thing I hate the most are those packing balloon things. You have to pop them all in order to dispose of them. I ordered some underwear to get over $35 for free shipping. Didn't really need it, but eventually I will. It shipped separately in a box with about 50 of those balloon things. Why does underwear need protection packing?

ohno
ohno

I live rural and have ordered online for years it's been a godsend. Boxes are always a problem. I have 6 dogs and 15 cats and between them and us i'm dragging stuff in the house with the dolly weekly or more. I do what I can to get rid of them. At first I was like ill use them and had no idea how many I was accumulating and developed a box warehouse. I try giving them away, the nearest place to get rid of them is like 35 miles away. There has been a few instances I have burned them. I'm sure that will melt the face off global warming activists. I really hate placing ads. Ive ran into some real dandys before and hate the hassle. I do what I can.

bradw2k
bradw2k

We get cat food from Chewy. The boxes are packed solid with cans, there's no space or filler. Something like 50 pounds ... if I was a FedEx worker I'd despise Chewy.

CCBW
CCBW

Cardboard boxes aren’t a problem I re-cycle them into heat I put in the boiler with the wood NO plastic, that goes in the re-cycle been. I know all the cardboard I go through in a year give's me a day maybe 2 of heat for my house. Now I'll be told it should be re-cycled back into cardboard well how much CO2 would go into the air from all that trucking. Now the argument your killing trees and making CO2 well I haven’t cut down a living tree in years plenty of dead ash trees around thanks to the emerald ash borer’s. Then you should leave the trees that way you wont release CO2 WORNG as the tree decomposes CO2 and methane are released the root mass will last the longest and I don't take that. Then I hear “I use natural gas it’s clean” It’s still a fossil fuel your releasing CO2 that’s been sequestered for millions of years. What I burn was in the atmosphere less than a hundred years ago.
Pounds of CO2 emitted per million British thermal units (Btu) of energy for various fuels:

Coal (anthracite) 228.6
Coal (bituminous) 205.7
Coal (lignite) 215.4
Coal (subbituminous) 214.3
Diesel fuel and heating oil 161.3
Gasoline (without ethanol) 157.2
Propane 139.0
Natural gas 117.0


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