We can get anything and everything delivered nowadays. We shop online for things ranging from toys to tools, and from cosmetics to groceries. We can even get prescriptions delivered now[1]. When Christmas/Holiday-season arrives, the online purchases get even more frequent. 

Our family shared Amazon wish lists these past 2 Christmases, and I had about 30-40 deliveries arrive at my doorstep in November and December of 2020. This year I’m sure I had almost 100 deliveries, and my home filled up with boxes. So much so, I was forced to spend a day opening boxes and wrapping gifts just to make room for me to live.  

Regardless of the season, pretty much all of these deliveries come in boxes (except maybe groceries). Have you ever wondered what happens to all those boxes your stuff gets delivered in? 

Where do all my “holiday” delivery boxes go? 

I’m one of those people who plays the evil character in videogames, or plays the evil story-line, before doing the good version. So, I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I’m doing the environmentally “evil” thing and throwing all my boxes out. I try to reuse some of them to hold and transport gifts, but I think the only other “good” thing I consistently do is break those boxes down so our porter doesn’t have to. 

If she’s reading this, Greta Thunberg, is probably glaring at a Googled image of me and growling: “How dare you?”

I apologize, but my excuse for this holiday season is that I’ve got a new job and need to do the best I can in this new role. I don’t have time to worry about where my waste goes. I’m sure the porter is putting those delivery boxes in the green “recycle” bins our building has stored next to the dumpster… Granted, I’ve never actually seen those recycle bins get used[2]

I’m also going to ignore that mass of brown cardboard poking out of the dumpster that same week I tossed my boxes. With all the people living in my building, who’re also receiving holiday deliveries, who’s to say that mass of boxes are truly mine.

Where does everyone else’s boxes go?

According to my research, most of those boxes are getting thrown away. That means they’re in a landfill somewhere. 

My conscience feels slightly better now that I know everyone else is doing the same thing I am… while at the same time, I’m a bit concerned for the safety of the planet now (but not enough to change my ways unless it’s convenient).

Speaking of convenience, the good news is the boxes themselves biodegrade really fast. All it takes is a little water to start the process. As a bonus, the packing tape Amazon uses to seal our packages is more environmentally friendly than what’s being used by other retailers. 

The “tape” Amazon use is mostly paper with an adhesive, and some sort of fibrous string-like substance which may last longer in a landfill. Thankfully, most of the major retailers are beginning to use the same sort of tape to pack and ship their products.

That means pretty much the entire package will biodegrade in a landfill.

What should we be doing with all those boxes?

When I was in high school, I learned about the “3 Rs” of ideal recycling practices: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Recycling is the last word of the 3 Rs, because it should be the last thing you do with recyclables. It requires a lot of money and energy to recycle, which means it may not be worth the effort to recycle some materials.

I don’t have faith in my city’s recycling program, and don’t believe those green recycle bins truly lead to the recycler. I’ve seen the waste management trucks, and there’s just no physical way recyclables can be separated from the rest of the garbage. Hell, I’ve seen the trash collectors dump recycling in with the normal trash.

That doesn’t make me want to go the extra mile to recycle.

City or government-operated recycling programs are a no-go. So, what else can we do to reduce our ecological footprint now that I’ve eliminated “Recycle” from the 3 Rs?

That leaves “Reduce” and “Reuse”. I can already tell you that “Reduce” is not an option for our consumerist society. Online spending is going to increase more and more for the foreseeable future, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it… except, maybe… stop buying stuff and wreck the economy.

Well shit! The only option left is to “Reuse” all those boxes. Here are some ways you can reuse those boxes:

  • They’re great boxes to wrap presents in.
  • Use the larger boxes to help transport all those gifts to your holiday party.
  • Put seasonal or rarely used items in a box before putting it in the attic or a closet.
  • Use them as make-shift trash containers for dry waste.
  • Let your cat lay in it.

Let’s face it, you can only reuse so many boxes before you’re forced to start tossing them as more deliveries arrive. That leads us back to square one… throwing the boxes away.

Thankfully, you don’t have to punish yourself too much over your Amazon garbage. Most of your shipping waste is going to biodegrade, which helps keep your ecological footprint small. So, get out there and support the economy which is based entirely on consumer spending.

Try not to think about the disturbing fact that it requires a lot of trees to make all those boxes… 

[1] Rx Delivery: You can’t get all prescriptions delivered. Controlled substances like ADHD meds need to be picked up in person. Same with other substances like narcotics. There’s too much of a risk these will be delivered to the wrong person, to children, or abusers; or even get stolen while in transit. 

[2] Green Recycle Bins: The people in my building don’t seem to use them, save for the random bottle of wine that gets dropped in there.

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