> while deflated air cushions can be recycled, many cities won’t collect them curbside
Pop them, put them in recycling. It's plastic, it's not my job to deal with the fallout. Either it's recyclable and I've done all I can, or it's the retailers' or cities' problem. The idea that there are "frustrated customers" is beyond me. Is this really what ordinary citizens sit around obsessing over? I just don't get it; this would be concern #10,056 on my list of priorities.
I want to help out, really I do, but I have more important things to worry about than which type of plastic goes in which bin. Hell, I'm happy to put the right kind of thing in the right bin if they made it clear which is which and why. But they don't do a very good job of communicating to me why this is important. They just say "recycle properly" then try to make you feel irresponsible and like a bad citizen for not knowing the proper way to do it based on some opaque and arcane process.
If you want people to help out, make it easy for them to feel like they're a part of it. The rules around recycling do the opposite - make you feel like you're harming things if you don't do things exactly right. Not a very empowering feeling at all.
What if we couldn't export our waste for someone else to deal with? Maybe then the feeling of personal responsibility would come rushing back.
For example, self-service checkouts in supermarkets, fast food, building a holiday package, etc.
Recycling is the same. They have 'outsourced' much of the job to local government and consumers.
It's a typical externalities problem - the full cost of using some types of packaging is not paid by the one doing the packaging.
Do everything to make it easy at both ends.
You're just playing NIMBY by passing the responsibility on.
Here are the rules for recycling where I lived: plastic to be cleaned before recycling (a minimal trace of food, allegedly, would require the whole batch of plastic to be thrown away). You are also supposed to separate the plastic part from the cardboard part on the packaging. You are also supposed to check if there is a specific type of coating on the inside of a cardboard box like foil for milk or wax for cups. Metal, Glass need to be cleaned too, although without threat of discarding a ton of waste. Paper is recycled separately from cardboard, however I believe that was for operational rather than technical reasons. Recycled paper could not be recycled again and glassy paper (magazine covers) needed removal.
When you get to that stage you realise that the average product in the supermarket would require quite a lot of processing. That's not realistic to expect people to follow all those rules and if you rely on thousands or ten of thousands of people to comply with them in order for your recycling to work, you are deep in the designed to fail territory.
You know, it's interesting that you say that we can't expect people to follow all those rules, but I just got back from Japan and WOW. That country has basically gotten everyone on board with following every rule. There are like four different receptacles for trash and you have to walk all your own trash out to the proper drop point. It seems like a crazy complex system, but the people understand why it has to be that way (no landfill space) and why their civic duty matters.
In the case of my story, it appears to be working well too. People have 3 bins, different collection days and quota (and tax). On the surface there is no real way for the system not to work, unless you consider the increase in fly-tipping. (allegedly)
I'm not quite sure it is working as advertised though. I can't believe that the people can determine the coating type that was used on whatever cardboard piece they see and get it wrong in small enough percentages that the process depending on it is still efficient. And it is a compounded effect, the more rules, the more edge cases. I haven't seen any change in the packaging of product, if anything it has gotten even more difficult to process than before. If people were choosing brand with easier packaging, all the brands would have followed by now ( those rules have been in place for over 15 years now ), I just can't believe that people moaning when a TV channel number change would just happily start washing their ready meal plastic boxes.
Another example that makes me doubtful. There are recycling centers for chemical, electronic stuff, gardening waste, ... The rules are quite simpler (eg: cooking oil vs car oil), yet people get it wrong all the time and the people managing the center are busy directing and correcting people all the time. That's at the recycling center, a place where people have already committed time to specifically go recycling their stuff.
You say that, yet people are evidently kept awake at night by the thought of little plastic cushions.
Don't recyclers have to sort submissions anyway? It's expected that citizens will "completely fail" to adhere to recycling instructions and submissions must be sorted anyway.
Is it a net profitable endeavor (energy in vs out)?
What are the recycled materials being used for, and what are the costs to get the material into that state?
And you know this how?
Seriously, burning stuff is not good. We need to stop doing that.
Only combustible waste is burned. Landfills are still needed.
For public trash cans: It happens that private security hides around the cans to control. I was once fined about 40 USD for putting paper in the paper bin on sunday at noon. They hid around the corner.
I can think up two answers to that.
1. Someone has a nicely rigged racket running. Making the masses pay in a way that's legal and they can't escape would be my wettest dream if I were an organized criminal.
2. Our modes of production and transportation have lots of hidden externalized costs. Finding and addressing those is an ongoing process. Distributing them over the end users may be one of the fairest ways to deal with them.
Because it helps me reduce my landfill trash to where I empty it 3 to 4 times per year. Actually, I've reduced my recyclable trash to nearly the same levels.
The opaque, crinkly ones -- they seem like the plastic that's in shopping bags. Maybe it's okay to deflate them and recycle them together? Even if your municipal recycling doesn't take them, I've seen lots of grocery stores that do (in the US).
The clear ones -- Like a sandwich bag, maybe a polyethylene? Can these be recycled with shopping bags too?
One of the "problems" I found with the process is the system tells you the size of box to use. You're not allowed to use a smaller size, even if it would work, only that size or larger. It also tends to overestimate the size of the item, so many boxes wind up with a lot more empty space than would be necessary, and more packing.
I'm sure this bias is intentional, but I found it odd at the time.
Amazon never seem to actually bubble wrap anything any more - which has led to damage more than once. Neither the string of air pockets, as in the article, or paper is as effective as they rarely use enough to prevent movement.
Here in the UK Amazon seems to have switched solely to paper inner packaging. Environmentally I prefer this.
And Amazon does not seem to care. It is so bad that I have shifted purchases offline to Costco in part so I don't have to deal with all this shipping waste. Costco doesn't even give me a bag.
If you don’t want to visit the links below, the sticker is 4 inches square, and the box is 7” x 5” x 10”. Why a cardboard mailer wasn’t enough, I don’t know. At least the seven air pouches included with it protected it from high G forces...
This might be of interest to you; send your gently used stuff to Goodwill, in Amazon boxes, for free.
It's not clear to me you should (perhaps you should, the balance simply isn't clear to me).
A plastic air cushion weighs almost nothing, so shipping it to the merchant and then to you uses almost no fuel.
It is rarely recycled but instead become sequestered carbon in a landfill. For me, they are convenient to recycle in Palo Alto but this article says, to my surprise, that that's uncommon. I'm not sure of the carbon impact of recycling PE.
While paper uses a lot of water and chemicals to make, and involves cutting down trees. It's also very heavy so costly in terms of fuel to transport and recycle.
Aesthetically, I agree that paper is much nicer.
Which they plant more of. Using this as an argument against paper is silly because it only applies to unsustainable approaches to paper. If we judged every process by the worst way to do it, then no process would be acceptable.
The whole point of recycling paper is to avoid cutting down trees (and as a minor secondary point reduce landfill, though most paper is compostable). Paper recycling is quite energy and chemical intensive when compared to virgin paper production. If you want to talk about "sustainable" and consider planting trees to be fine, then you don't want to recycle.
I don't consider cutting down trees and replanting them that great, frankly. You take a large tree with a large surface area that's transpiring lots of carbon and replace it with a sapling with a small surface area. Yes that sapling is, over time, turning carbon into tree trunk, but that time scale for that is decades while the paper releases carbon immediately through its production and transport and then continues to do so over decades as it decomposes.
This calculus can be improved by making the paper out of something with a better yield and shorter growth time (hemp is claimed to be such but I have no idea if that's true) and by using non-fossil fuel. But you have to look at the chemistry required as well...and in any case paper is heavy (a box of paper is basically a box of wood) which is inherently fuel intensive.
Plastic film (and plastic toys) are sequestered if you can stick them in landfills. Of course the best carbon sequestration will be to leave the oil in the ground...not yet an option in 2017.
But the best lifecycle analysis has to be done on base of most accurate costs possible, not emotion. Paper is pretty shitty.
Still, I am not yet convinced vs the lifetime oil consumption & carbon release of paper packaging vs plastic.
You take a large tree with a large surface area that's transpiring lots of carbon and replace it with a sapling with a small surface area. Yes that sapling is, over time, turning carbon into tree trunk, but that time scale for that is decades
The reason in a nutshell is that when trees start to compete on the available sunlight by out-growing and overshadowing each other, they need to work harder to pull water up to the top where most of the photosynthesis happens. The leaves or needles in the shadow produce almost nothing but still consume resources for respiration.
I'd be surprised if unbleached brown paper, screwed up as padding, came out worse environmentally than oil derived plastic. It's probably polythene or variant which doesn't really biodegrade and lasts for centuries. Or leaches chemicals or ends up in the ocean and photodegrades to little bits.
How do we evaluate 1,000 year lifespan vs months for impact? Does that change if we consider it ending up inside wildlife or the ocean foodchain?
Here in my part of the UK at least it's essentially non-recyclable.
I think I'd like to use less, but that's very much an instinctive view. I'd rather corn starch replacements for much packing as it better suits a one time temporary use.
I would not be surprised; the production even of unbleached Kraft paper is quite energy intensive and environmentally bad (look up "black liquor" for example). Oil derived plastics (not very nice either by any stretch of the imagination) appear to use less energy to produce and of course much much less to transport.
> It's probably polythene or variant which doesn't really biodegrade and lasts for centuries. Or leaches chemicals or ends up in the ocean and photodegrades to little bits.
PE doesn't really biodegrade in any meaningful sense of the word. But if stuck in the ground it doesn't release any more carbon into the atmosphere, unlike decaying organic matter. Typical PE film doesn't contain interesting plasticisers so there's nothing to leach out.
The nasty end result of PE film is when it flies about and gets eaten by animals. That's why plastic bags are so horrible. I don't know if these air bags suffer the same fate; I suspect they do. That's bad.
But you said "envoronmentally" not just waste stream: when I look at the total life cycle it's not clear to me that paper is better.
Note that if oil were only involved as feedstock (so both products were produced with only wind or solar electricity) then the calculus could be different.
Recycled changes the numbers too if you don't need to bleach it back to white. Though you've a load of ink and finishers to deal with. At least paper is regularly recycled.
So I think we're in agreement that we don't know!
"provides CO2-neutral biomass-based electricity "
It's kind of insane, but there was a mill near where I grew up that was doing exactly this a few years ago.
It appears the trend is to externalize the sorting of materials, as this appears to be the most expensive part.
Are there dedicated paid human sorters? Would people volunteer to help in such a way?
You probably want something to fill the space. Empty boxes are easy to unintentionally crush, exposing the contents to damage, weather, and loss.
Paper will probably add less support unless it's really packed, but it will still add some.
It definitely seems like a better method, but I'm curious if the shipping handling is different there.
(For reference, in the SE US I'd say about 1:15 Amazon boxes arrives with some kind of damage. 1:40 with worrisome damage)
That said I used to often have CDs and DVDs delivered from Amazon.jp to Sweden when I lived there that were packed the same way and they arrived safely, but CDs and DVDs are probably the easiest thing to ship.
I can see now how a majority of the parcels may get through ok, but the few that end up caught or trapped will end up in very poor condition.
Dear vendor: You can take your RMAs, your restocking fees and your lame-ass excuses for shirking responsibility and shove it where the sun don't shine. Because, Amazon.
Sorry for the poor quality. Box is roughly 24" x 18" x 6" containing one approximately 13 inch long kitchen utensil (a silicon whisk) and 7-8 useless air cushions.
I'm asking because I've been told that Amazon makes engineers work at their fulfillment centers when it's peak season. If that's true, are people paid extra to do so?
> I've been told that Amazon makes engineers work at their fulfillment centers when it's peak season
Good god, no. An engineer salary has got to be 4 to 8 times the salary of an FC Associate (or more), and generally speaking we're terrible at manual labour! Besides which, the engineers are generally busy making sure the software doesn't fall over from the X-times load increase of all the extra users during the peak season.
That said, the better engineers tended to try to get on-site frequently to better understand the tools, problems, etc. I sure tried to be there often.
I would like to be an engineer there but I think I'm underqualified for most of those positions. I learn what I can about the software and the processes when I can, though.
a) Prevents damage to the internal contents
b) Compliance with 3pl recommendations
c) bin packing
But when you're told to pack a single DVD in a box big enough to need several layers of padding it sometimes seems excessive.
It took several iterations of ingenuity to figure it out because the previous sheet of air bags had one inlet to inflate all the airtubes. All the tubes were connected to each other like the tubes of a waterbed.
Since I've been seeing those inflatable air bags for more than 5 years in shipments from Amazon, Newegg, etc., it looks like industry adoption has taken less than 10 years.
used in this $1500 machine: http://minipakr.com/the-mini-pakr/
Disposable peanuts are made from corn/rice so humans/pets can eat them, but it's unknown if they're easily digestible in large quantities and anecdotes about pets hurling them up are out there.
I prefer the air-packs, yes it's plastic (my recycler accepts them if they're collapsed and not loose), but a small amount given the size of the packages.
Whatever is on there as a preservative or pet/child deterrent (or possibly both) made me nauseous for hours afterward.
New ones you can even eat. They're made of corn.
We actually do compost, but our pile is inactive in the winter, and dumping some mysterious product into it isn't something that I'd want to do.
I've never had problems identifying which packing materials are compostable. Usually putting one under warm water will give it away - they're designed to be washed down the drain.
1) Re-use rather than recycle: What if you could let the air out at home, open up the bag, stuff it with other bags, and the outside of the bag had a postage paid stamp. It goes back to the company that made the bag so it can be re-used.
2) Make them out of compostable plastic. Much simpler than above, probably the better way.
The key is that these air cushions don't need to last (likely) more than a few days. What can we do so that they have as little impact as possible.
They may be better than the packing peanuts or other substitutes, but there is still opportunity to improve.
*And a lot have starch bags, which break if you try and put more than two milk bottles in or anything sharp.
Picking up boxes for recycling from houses alone would make for a pretty big carbon footprint. Not to mention costly. The current box strategy might be more carbon-friendly, oversll
The energy costs involved in recycling are not trivial and someone still needs to "pick it up from every house".
Its is almost always preferable carbon-wise to re-use, especially in metropolitan areas where pickup is trivial and could easily be performed on the next delivery. A small security deposit would cover the costs, or just keep them if you want some storage boxes.
I imagine that's because its time in transit is far lower and it's handled by only one currier. In the end, probably less efficient but at least on the packing materials side it's more efficient.
I've used HelloFresh in Australia, a competitor/alternative to Blue Apron and the polystryene box they use is much much smaller because it only contains the small meat items. The Youfoodz box is much bigger https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0506/7861/files/Blog-Zarah...
Is it just me or can you not just pop them and throw them in the trash
So, yeah, a bit irksome.
polluted dystopian future here we come!
It's such a wasteful industry that China Post actually came up with laws and regulations ordering carriers to reduce wastes by simplifying packaging for online ordered goods just starting late 2016
Anecdotally, my friends in China told me that some of their double singles day items came in thin poly packs that without air cushions and most of the electronics are shipped with retail packaging as is and without an outer carton box.
I think U.S. should follow suit.
So, unlike packing peanuts, we get some secondary use out of air packs.
(But, yes, of course your dog may vary, and I don't recommend this.)
If so, that seems like an easy way to start reducing the box count. :)
How would that work? Nobody wants wallpaper that they have to replace each week because it keeps popping.
Looks like they tried textured wallpaper and green house insulation before packing. Maybe it was a lot harder to pop in the wallpaper version?
Even seen it recommended for cheap double glazing for those of limited means or renting.
Yup, it "just popped on its own", I didn't do it. LOL
It seems like it uses less material but the boxes are designed to be torn open like a FedEx envelope which means they are not reusable which seems wastful
greener planet, happier people everyone wins.
a real issue would be making better use of the space. i once got shipped a 10 liter box that contained a single zippo lighter.
The only common seriously durable, non-deposit packaging around here are glass bottles and metal cans, as both of those things are easy and profitable to sort and recycle.
Why would you target every small business with this expense?
I imagine a cottage industry of recycle processing middle handlers would eventually lower the friction in this space.
Not surprisingly, the bottle was empty upon arrival, its contents having leaked out during shipment.
I filed a complaint and they resent the product. The next shipment of the cleaner came wrapped in plastic bags, inside a traditional cardboard box (though no air cushions). I guess Amazon realized their experiment in minimization didn't work out all that well.
Btw: I'm wondering if anyone here recycles plastic using a filament maker for a 3d printer, either DIY or commercial, and how well that works.
Waste sorting and recycling regulations need to be continually ratcheted up because a few bins isn't working (ever see the disaster of the composting, recycling and landfill bins at Costco?). Do like Stanford does: have separate bins (up to 5) but also divert more of the waste stream for recyclables, composting, etc. with pre-landfill processing. Left to their own devices, people rarely voluntarily make changes which are vital to more sustainable ecology.
It seems also that at some point in the future, it may become economical to mine landfills for materials when scarcity drives prices high enough.
A few months ago they shipped me a camera lens, external hard drive, and some other smaller products in a giant box with no padding whatsoever. The lens and hard drive boxes had plenty of styrofoam, so fortunately nothing was damaged, but I made sure to complain.
It is amazing how many people still do not use reusable tote bags.
If your like me and you forget to bring them or put them back into the car one way to remember is to put them on your coat rack or next to your master grocery list (ie a pad of paper you fill out during the week).
Even if I forget the bags I will often buy a new tote bag at the store.... in practice the more bags I have the less I seem to forget them (ie spares in the car).
I'm incredibly lazy so I have to imagine many others can do it.
Given the large amount of additional resources it takes to create one of these reusable tote bags, and the fact that you need to wash them occasionally, it's not clear to me that they are a net benefit, even if you always know ahead of time that you are going to the store and always remember to bring them with you.
As for reusing plastic bags I do that as well as inevitable you will pick up some.
As for washing bags I almost never do because almost everything put in the bag is in some other container.
At least you have the option with reusable bags to clean them and thus could pre remove residues and toxins.
With plastic bags you might be exposed to various toxins (albeit probably at low levels). Just pickup and smell new plastic bags if you don't believe me. Ideally you shouldn't smell anything but I almost always do which means something volatile is being released.
The other issue is plastic bags aren't just bad because they take oil and energy to make... they are pretty awful for wild life. I have actually had to help turtles in the Charles River get out of plastic bags.
Apparently poly bags take 11x what it takes to make a single plastic bag . But this again doesn't take into account how much you can overload a reusable bag with out them breaking and previously mentioned points (as well as being far more comfortable to hold on to... I just love how plastic bags cut off blood supply to fingers).
As for paper bags... they rip and suck in the rain.
The box it came in looked like it contained an Xbox: it was huge! Upon opening it and removing all the Air Cushions™, there was a tiny little envelope at the bottom with the microsd inside.
Completely bewildering, albeit amusing.
 comments like this are a bit of a peeve of mine as they contribute to the global mental picture of Canada as one homogeneous biosphere instead of a huge land mass with many different cultures and environments. Ever heard this one - "Oh, you're from Canada? My brother in law is from Canada; Jake Unrau - ever met him?"
And the word you're looking for is "pizza saver".
...but this does not (to me) appear to be that story- This seems like a story created by a journalist noticing the air cushions in his amazon package, making two phone calls to pad the story a bit, and then sending it to their editor as a finished work.
We've collectively decided that ordering everything online provides us with time and cost efficiency. Those things aren't free.
There exists places that take bulk case packages of products, place them on shelves and make them available to the public. You give them money, put the items in a paper/plastic/reusable bag and take them home.
They are called stores. Many are located near common places, like intersections or near commercial office areas.