Consumers question oversized boxes used for shipping tiny items

Online shopping has more than doubled during the pandemic, with some residents seeing packages arrive at their doors almost daily.

For frequent online shoppers, one frustration may be ordering a small item that comes in a box 10 times larger than it needs to be, creating more waste.

Amazon is the leader in online sales worldwide, shipping almost 10 million packages each day. That's a lot of cardboard, but the company may be using a lot more than it needs too.

CTV News viewers sent in several photos that show small items that were shipped in large Amazon boxes. In one case it was a small product and in another it was a single pack of batteries.

It leads to more recycling, more waste for municipalities to deal with and it's bad for the planet.

According to the environmental group Canopy, when you buy an item online and have it shipped to your door, it uses seven times the packaging than if you bought it in a store.

“Obviously there needs to be a change because each year there are three billion trees that disappear into paper-based packaging” said Nicole Rycroft, the executive director of Canopy.

The Recycling Council of Ontario says retailers need to do a better job and consumers can also do their part when shopping online by making better choices.

“Can you wait till you have a few items that need to be shipped, so it's one trip to your door so there is just one package that contains more items,” said Jo-Anne St. Godard Executive Director with the Council.

Canopy works to protect the world's forests and educate the public on the effects of climate change.

Rycroft said shipping companies should be using as much recycled cardboard as possible to protect endangered forests and that when a consumer gets a product in a clearly oversized box they should complain to the retailer.

“If you’re getting a small package and it's coming over packaged then you should be engaging the retailer to send the message to them that they need to prioritize to make sure they are rightsizing the packaging," said Rycroft.

CTV News sent the photos to Amazon and a spokesperson said the company is always working to eliminate waste and reduce it's carbon footprint.

The spokesperson added “We’ve invented machine learning algorithms to help us make the smartest packaging choice for customer orders, and we’re always working on testing and making improvements.”

Environmentalists and those in recycling say the photos are proof there is room for improvement.

“We have to engage these companies to rethink and redesign their packaging so they are not doing more harm than is intended" said St. Godard.

It's not just cardboard when you get a package, there is usually packing paper and bubble wrap in the box, which is also added waste.

It's an issue retailers will have to deal with because even when the pandemic is over online shopping will continue.