After a busy holiday season, Amazon works to make packaging more sustainable

Published: Jan. 3, 2018 at 6:45 PM EST
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One after another, a train of trucks unloads at one Los Angeles area recycling center. Natasha Garagin emptied an SUV packed with empty boxes.

"How many boxes do you think you had in your car?" asks CBS News' Jamie Yuccas.

"Oh well over 200. Well over," Garagin says.

In the U.S. alone, Amazon used 6,000 trucks and 32 planes to get packages to its Prime members last year.

Kreigh Hampel is the recycling coordinator for the city of Burbank.

"Are you seeing an increase in the amount of cardboard?" Yuccas asks.

"Absolutely, it's a tsunami of cardboard. Everything goes up by 5 to 10 percent during the holidays," he replies.

That's a concern for Hampel because the recycling process is so complex. The boxes are sorted and bundled at the center. Then, he says they're loaded into containers and shipped across the pacific to China. There, the boxes are soaked in water, stripped of staples, and reborn as boxes.

But Amazon says they've put a new focus on sustainable packaging, moving over 100 million shipments from boxes to padded mailers in 2017.

"We make this kind of packaging easy to open, minimal waste, and 100 percent recyclable. As a result, to date, we've eliminated 181 thousand tons of waste," said Kara Hurst, head of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon, in a video.

Amazon does have a challenge in terms of its packaging. It wants it to be compact, but it also wants to get to you intact. As for all the cardboard, recycling centers say it could take until February for it to all be cleared out.