Americans love online retail – the channel grew by 16% last year in the US, while all retail rose 3.8%. We love the speed and convenience. We love the ‘just-got-a-gift’ feeling of boxes turning up on our doorstep. We love Amazon too – one fan back in 2014 remarking, “I’m in a monogamous relationship with #amazonprime.” But love, as they say, is blind. And as consumers, we turn a blind eye to the environmental cost of online retail, particularly when it comes to packaging.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JANUARY 04: Amazon Prime boxes are seen in a bundle of recycled cardboard at Recology’s Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As reported in Fast Company, about 165 billion packages are shipped in the US each year, with the cardboard used roughly equating to more than 1 billion trees (that’s billion with a ‘b’). If you look specifically at meal-kits, category leader Blue Apron sends out around 8 million meals a month, each one containing two six-pound ice packs. The freezer pack waste is about 192,000 tons per year, or, as Mother Jones noted, “the weight of nearly 100,000 cars or 2 million adult men.”

BOSTON, MA – JUNE 28: In this photo illustration, a Blue Apron box sits on the porch of a house on June 28, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Generally speaking, we are drowning in a sea of packaging waste, and too much of it is ending up in the ocean. A recent campaign from Lonely Whale and Point Break Foundation claims that by the year 2025, there will be 1 tonne (a metric ton) of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish in the ocean. (It gets worse – the United Nations tells us that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish.) Online retail is certainly not responsible for all that trash – but it sure doesn’t help.

An article by Pam Baker on “E-commerce packaging waste becoming a bigger issue” helps to unpack the problem. Prior to the Internet, the logistics for traditional retail were simple and linear…