Amazon ships approximately two and a half billion packages a year, making it over thirteen million packages per day. If you’re like me and order from Amazon, then it’s likely you have several boxes lying around somewhere in your house.
There’s a good chance the number of boxes will continue to increase as time goes on, so what can you do about it? Well, the phrase “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” is somewhat cliché, but it has never been more true today.
Assuming that you purchase a lot from Amazon, reducing is out of question unless you change your purchasing habits. And if you’re not willing to do that, you can always reuse the boxes though some people have a hard time coming up with creative ideas.
This leaves us with the most convenient and probably the best option which is recycling, but are amazon boxes recyclable, and can they decompose in a compost pile?
What Does Amazon Have to Say?
Amazon’s official website has dedicated an entire section to providing information about the recycling value of cardboard boxes and other packaging materials the company uses on a daily basis.
Even though they do not reveal the exact material used in the making of the boxes, they give you enough information to at least make an educated guess.
The entire cardboard box can decompose, but some questions still remain, like whether the ink Amazon uses can decompose and may pose some harm the bacteria in your compost. Well, a couple of decades ago, most companies used petroleum-based ink to print out the logos on the boxes, but those revealed to be toxic for the environment.
Therefore, over the years, companies started to search for alternatives and they eventually replaced the petroleum-based ink with a more sustainable and cheaper alternative, which is called soy-based ink.
Even though Amazon doesn’t outright say what type of ink they use, I’ve composted Amazon boxes and I haven’t had an issue, even with their tape.
Is Amazon’s Prime Tape Compostabe?
Amazon prime tape is 100% compostable.
The tape itself is held together using thick fibers, with the fibers themselves being biodegradable. However, you should note that the tape will take a lot longer to decompose than other materials in a traditional compost pile. The fibers will be the first to decompose, but the other more rigid material in the tape will take a lot longer.
If you notice that some of the tape is taking very long to break down, just pick out the bits from the compost whenever you’re going in for regular maintenance.
Are Shipping Labels Compostable?
While all the other parts of the Amazon box are biodegradable, the same cannot be said about the Amazon shipping labels.
Unfortunately, the shipping labels are usually made from plastic, so recycle them as you would normally. If you leave the shipping labels in your compost, remove them ASAP.
Most plastics are impossible to break down and sit in the compost, excreting toxins into the mixture that could completely ruin your compost.
Composting is a great way of recycling organic waste, and there is a long list of materials that are suitable for composting, including fruits and veggies, paper, grass, which are generally derived from nature and can decompose naturally. However, plastic is not one of those materials, so you should never add it to your compost pile.
How to Decompose Amazon Boxes
Amazon boxes can decompose at a very slow rate.
This is because they are made from the highest value grade of paper. It has long and sturdy fibers that make it possible to be recycled and form lower-grade paper.
Therefore, as a result of its durability, it might take a longer time to decompose, but you can certainly speed up its decomposition. For example, here’s what I do.
The first thing I do when recycling Amazon cardboard boxes is remove the shipping labels, obviously. They are made from plastic and won’t decompose and will slow down the decomposition rate, and might even bring the pile to a halt.
Depending on the composting method you’re using and how many cardboard boxes you have stored, you might be able to add them to an existing pile, or you might have to create a new one and incorporate the boxes you have.
Don’t do like I’ve done in the beginning, which was to tear down my Amazon boxes into big chunks or layers of cardboard. This is the wrong way to go about it.
To ensure cardboard decomposes at a faster rate, the first thing you should do is making it wet. Wet cardboard decomposes faster and it’s also easy to shred it into small pieces, which is what you should do right after.
However, I only wet the cardboard if I want to shred it manually using scissors, which is typically when I only have a few boxes to compost. When I have a lot amazon boxes or cardboard to compost, I use a powerful paper shredder (like this one on Amazon).
Using a paper shredder saves me time, and it’s way more effective when I want to convert big layers of cardboard into tiny pieces of cardboard that can easily decompose.
So, to sum up the importance of shredding cardboard:
Shredding cardboard aids in the composting process by reducing the size of the cardboard and increasing the exposed surface area.
Ultimately, the breakdown process is quickened, so you can have your compost ready at the desired time.
Shredding the cardboard will also make it easier for you to add it to your compost, and also facilitate having to turn the pile manually.
Advantages of Using Amazon Cardboard Boxes
Decomposed cardboard boxes will be a great advantage to your soil.
Even though they do not do a lot in adding nutrients to the soil (that is the role of nitrogen-rich materials), cardboard boxes improve soil structure.
Once cardboards decomposes, it benefits distinct types of soil in a different way.
For sandy soils, it increases their porosity, and it enables the soil to retain more water, which means you don’t have to water it as often. For clay soils, it improves their drainage so they don’t get excessively moist. It also increases nutrient retention, but this benefit goes for every type of soil.
If you have issues with your garden or your lawn, the solution can be as simple as decomposing the cardboard boxes teeming in the house. You can improve the health and structure of the soil and save a lot of money on lawn and garden care. Plus, you also eliminate the need to water your lawn frequently, and also the need to apply fertilizers and pesticides as often as you do.
Cardboard (or browns in general) are also one of the major fixes in restoring the balance of a compost that is decomposing very slowly and producing a bad smell. Typically, when that happens it’s because you have excess nitrogen, so you need carbon to balance it out.
So, if you haven’t started composting your Amazon boxes, it’s probably a good idea to start now, as it’s way better than having them end up in a landfill.
FAQs on Amazon Boxes
Are Amazon Boxes Made From Recycled Cardboard
There is no information available online on whether Amazon’s cardboard boxes are entirely made from recycled cardboard, but I sincerely doubt it. All corrugated boxes in the United States have at least 30% recycled content, and we can perhaps make an educated guess by saying that Amazon’s cardboard boxes contain recycled material, but it doesn’t represent 100%.
Over the years, however, Amazon has reduced the weight of their packaging by 33%, which eliminated more than 880,000 tons of packaging material, which is equivalent to 1.5 billion shipping boxes. This is good news for environmentalists like me.
Are Amazon Boxes Toxic to Pets?
I wasn’t aware of this until I’ve started writing this article, but apparently there were posts circulating the web suggesting that Amazon sprays its cardboard boxes with chemicals to kill warehouse rodents, which consequently affected household pets.
However, Snopes (a fact-checking website) spoke to an Amazon spokesperson called Leah Seay, and this is the response they got: “Boxes aren’t sprayed for any reason. If somewhere down the supply chain are they sprayed? The answer to that is no,” said Leah. “Corrugated boxes are made of wood pulp and wood pulp binders, which is basically what all manufacturers make their boxes out of. So, we don’t have special boxes. They are essentially the same thing that every other manufacturer uses.”