From sustainable packaging to deliveries through EV, how Amazon India is mitigating climate change

With climate change approaching faster than expected, the Seattle-based retail giant Amazon is trying to be on the right side of the narrative in its fastest growing marketplace – India. It is now taking certain measures, including sustainable pac...

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For deliveries, the firm had launched electric vehicles and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.
Meticulous packaging to ensure a safe delivery with no damage to the product is one of the primary goals of an e-commerce company. To achieve this, huge amounts of plastic in the form of tapes and bubble wraps have been used for hardcore packaging. However, since plastic is one of the biggest known threat to the environment and takes over 1000 years to decompose, Amazon India decided to use alternatives.

In September, the firm announced the usage of paper cushions to replace plastic dunnage such as air pillows and bubble wraps across its fulfillment centres (FCs). Paper cushions will fill the void space inside the packages ensuring that protection of the product during transit. While the solution has already been placed in selected FCs, the firm is targeting to extend it to all Amazon FCs by the year-end.
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Along with the change in the packaging material, Amazon India is making sure the material contains as much as 100% recycled content. As per a release by Amazon earlier, the plastic currently used in packaging mailers and bubble bags is made of 20% recycled content, and is also recyclable. The firm is working on finding alternate means of packaging to replace items such as bubble bags, stretch wrap and tape.


In the release, Akhil Saxena, Vice President, Customer Fulfillment, Amazon India, had said that less than 7% of Amazon India’s packaging material consists of single-use plastic. He added that the firm is targeting to completely eliminate the use of single-use plastic in its buildings by June 2020.

When asked about where does India stand globally and independently in terms of sustainable packaging, Saxena told ET, “The ecommerce industry in India is still in its nascent stages in India, and hence, it is critical for us to introduce sustainable practices into our processes. Amazon India has been actively working towards reducing our carbon footprint across our business.

Saxena cites the example of Packaging Free Shipping (PFS) by Amazon India a one of its kind initiative that has expanded to 13 cities in less than a year. “With packaging-free shipments, we minimize secondary packaging required for individual shipments by securing multiple shipments together in a reusable crate or a corrugated box. This was introduced to reduce waste generated from secondary packaging of customer orders,” says Saxena.
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Amazon India had earlier announced the expansion of PFS to nine cities in the country. The orders placed under this program are shipped in their original packaging with no additional packaging. This program, which was only available for select orders depending on the location, distance the order has to travel and the category of the product, has been expanded to more regions with a wider selection of products and a bigger customer base.

Saxena explained that Amazon India’s transformation towards sustainable packaging also involves working with manufacturers to develop sustainable packaging solutions and also educating its sellers to join the movement. “Sellers form an integral component of our ecosystem. We have seen an encouraging response from the sellers because they realize the importance of developing alternatives to plastic,” he said.

Other forms of sustainability
Apart from sustainable packaging, Amazon India has been working on covering other factors which would help in limiting the effects of greenhouse gases. In 2017, the firm’s operations team began installing solar arrays on its buildings in 2017 and today, eight facilities have a total of over 8 megawatts of solar capacity installed. The solar arrays are situated across cities, namely Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.

Many Amazon FCs are equipped with rainwater collection tanks or recharge wells which collects and recycle water. The tanks send the water back to the aquifers, and in-house sewage treatment plants, so it can be reused for other purposes such as gardening or flushing.
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For deliveries, the firm had launched electric vehicles and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

In another one of its contributions towards a cleaner environment, the e-commerce giant joined hands with BBMP and United Way Bengaluru two years ago to construct a sewage treatment plant. Bengaluru, which is home to many lakes such as BTM, Ulsoor and Bellandur witness tons of waste deposited in them. The eco-friendly sewage treatment plant was built with an aim to clean up to 1 million litres of water per day.
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According to Saxena, there are many monitoring systems in place which will ensure that the STP works at an optimal level. The Centre for DEWATS Dissemination Society (CDD) and BORDA, a German Technology firm has provided technical expertise for installation of the STP. The civil construction is being led by Revlon Engineers.

“STP treats 1 million liters of wastewater every day. This has helped in the restoration of water quality of the lake and also improved the surrounding flora and fauna. With the reduced inflow of toxins, the wetland ecosystem has been restored to a significant level. This has helped in aiding groundwater recharge, accruing micro-climate benefits in the areas around the lake impacting over 1 lakh people living in the region and several species that are a part of the ecosystem,” he said.

In the meantime, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last month announced the formation of The Climate Pledge, an organisation with the objective of fulfilling the goals of the landmark Paris climate agreement 10 years early.

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