Calls to government to force Amazon and Asos to take back your packaging

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“If Ocado can take back bags, then mail order firms should take back boxes”

Popular mail order companies like Amazon and Asos should take back their packaging for recycling and ethical disposal in a money-saving move that could result in thousands of tonnes of waste being recycled.

In the same way that grocery delivery services such as Ocado take back their own (and any other supermarkets’) plastic bags, couriers should ask if there is any mail order cardboard or plastic packing that needs to go back to the depot, a national waste and recycling company says.

According to, this is likely to boost recycling rates all over the country, and encourage householders and companies to think greener. And it would be great for Amazon’s sometimes-battered reputation, too.

“If Ocado can take back bags, then Amazon should take back boxes and Asos take back packaging,” Business Waste spokesperson Mark Hall says.

“It might even encourage ethical consumers to shop with them, and that would be good for business.”

And here’s why the big mail order companies should consider a take-back scheme:

The Office of National Statistics say that at least 75% of Britons shop online. That means millions of tonnes of packaging entering the waste and recycling system each year.

Latest government figures show that Britain throws away 4.7 million tonnes of paper and cardboard packaging every year, and only 3.4 million of this is recycled. While this is above EU target rates, a missing 1.3 million tonnes is still lost to the system, Business Waste says.

The same figures show that only a third of the 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging discarded every year is recycled. Again, this is above generous European targets, but still far short of what can be achieved.

“It’s hard to imagine 1.3 million tonnes of anything,” Hall says, “But that amount of paper and cardboard would probably reach most of the way to the moon, if not further.”

Here’s what suggests:

All couriers should ask if there’s “Anything to go back?” when making a delivery. Customers can hand over any mail order packaging, from any source.

Customers expecting a delivery can leave old card and plastic packaging out to be collected

Recycled card and plastic is sorted straight from the returning courier’s van into appropriate bins at the depot

Bins are emptied or collected by a commercial waste and recycling company

These bins, while strictly commercial waste, should be exempted from landfill tax bills as they have been collected from domestic sources with the intent to recycle.

This scheme should apply to online retailers such as Amazon, as well as mail order clothing outlets such as Asos which use courier services

“We see a large and enthusiastic take-up for such a system,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall, “and it should push all mail order companies into considering more environmentally friendly packaging in the future.” applauds the efforts of online mail order giants Amazon for their efforts in reducing excess packaging, but they are still occasionally guilty of sending tiny items in huge boxes padded out with rolls of brown paper.

“We’d say they’re getting it right nine times out of ten,” says Hall, “But we’re still occasionally getting printer ink cartridges in boxes the size of a small car.”

With the onus on the vendors to accept returned packaging, it would encourage them use much less of it, says.

With tens of millions of customers ripping open cardboard and plastic packing on a daily basis through, there’s a ready market for recycling this waste as fully as possible.

“The transport network is already in place, through the courier companies” says Hall.

“It just takes a brave step in the right direction to make this work.”

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