In the glass bottle example, you - the customer - take the bottles to a recycling center or to the grocery store. (I remember doing this with cans and bottles with my father as a young boy, growing up without a ton of money.)
In the Amazon example, you - the customer - take the bins... where? I live in Seattle, so it's easy enough for me to take them to an Amazon pickup location, but probably not for someone in rural Kansas.
Leave the bins out to be shipped back to UPS? Those bins are worth a considerable amount of money on deposit most likely, and are prime targets for theft or misappropriation. How is this resolved? You have created a large chain of custody problem and a large burden on their support team.
This is all doable. The price will just have to be quite a bit higher than it was in the past for what is likely fairly minimal positive impact on the environment. Take a look at industrial pollution / CO2 effects on the planet by country adjusted for GDP. The United States is not close to the prime offender today - and it'll be even worse in 30 years as China/India go through their own Industrial and Informational revolutions.
That's not actually the case though. Of course it's costly to Amazon to ship plastic containers, but you don't have to increase the price. In the case of the bottles, it was cheaper to pay people to return them than to make new glass bottles. Likewise, it's likely cheaper for Amazon to pay people to return new boxes than it is for them to send new ones.
The people are the ones helping Amazon cost-save, Amazon isn't doing anyone but themselves a favour by shipping better packaging. The only incentive from Amazon's perspective here is so that they market about how they're recycling more, and how much better protected the items are.
>> Likewise, it's likely cheaper for Amazon to pay people to return new boxes than it is for them to send new ones.
Plastic is heavier and less uniform than cardboard boxes that UPS/DHL expect, making their trucks less efficient, which increases the prices to Amazon.
It's definitely not cheaper to do what you are suggesting. They wouldn't have stopped doing it in the first place if it was. They asked for customers to return the bins and everything, just like you are laying out. It did not work.