Is the global shipping industry truly ready to go ‘packaging-free’?


By Charles Haverfield, CEO of US Packaging & Wrapping. 

Earlier this year, Amazon announced it would be changing its shipping processes to send orders only in their original packaging. As it stands, 11 percent of Amazon orders worldwide are currently shipped without secondary packaging, with the retailer conglomerate recently revealing plans to escalate efforts for more efficient and sustainable delivery processes.

While the sentiment of couriers going ‘packaging free’ is admirable in theory for reducing emissions, eliminating waste and lowering costs for manufacturers, many may question whether this approach could realistically become the norm for the wider packaging industry.

From a consumer perspective, one of the first concerns will likely be the lack of privacy. Particularly with Christmas around the corner and online sales expected to surpass $221.8 billion this festive season, having no way to guard your orders from prying eyes could be a problem. 

It could also make shoppers a target for porch pirates. According to a recent survey, 28 percent of Americans have been the victim of porch theft. This figure has been increasing each year since 2021. Having no way to shield orders with plain packaging, especially expensive products, goes against all advice for safeguarding against porch piracy. 

The reality is that for many product categories, removing secondary packaging is simply not viable. 

Secondary packaging has long been a crucial factor for protecting goods during the transportation, storage and handling stages. Food products, for example, are particularly vulnerable to spoilage, whether by physical damage or environmental degradation such as excessive moisture. 

Because of this, manufacturers rely on secondary packaging to prevent losses during shipping processes. Brands will therefore need to carefully balance where it is appropriate to reduce secondary packaging without compromising the quality of goods.

It’s hard to foresee other retailers adopting Amazon’s ‘ship in own container’ policy in the near future. Instead, I predict manufacturers will be focused on making secondary packaging more sustainable through researching and developing environmentally friendly materials that contribute to a circular packaging economy without compromising product quality and customer satisfaction.

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