Amazon is adding scannable codes onto some of its boxes to encourage their re-use, according to an email sent to Retail Dive. Some customers will notice the imprinted codes on their packages starting this month, the company said.
Dubbed "SmileCodes," the codes can be scanned with the Amazon mobile app to access instructions on how to use their boxes for arts and crafts projects. The app will also reveal videos, including a 360-degree video of a "whimsical galaxy," according to the release.
The effort follows a similar push in February that included encouragement to customers to reuse their boxes for projects like making a cowboy hat or roller coaster, encouraging them to show off the results on social media using the hashtag #morethanabox.
At a meeting with vendors last March in Seattle, Amazon reportedly asked consumer product goods suppliers to re-think packaging and devise supply chain reforms tailored for the age of e-commerce. Amazon told Retail Dive then that it's celebrating 10 years of "frustration-free packaging" policies that include ongoing improvements in density, efficiency and sustainability in packing and transporting orders.
"Millions of times each year, customers write to tell us they love how their products have been packaged – sending pictures and stories that our packaging and fulfillment center teams love to hear," according to Amazon's statement on sustainability in December. "They also tell us when our packaging hasn't worked – when their products were damaged, when the box used was too big, or just too hard to open. This informs our worldwide packaging team and allows Amazon and our vendors to improve packaging design and delivery. If it's serious enough, their feedback can automatically pull what we call 'the Andon cord' to prevent a product from disappointing another customer."
But Amazon's fulfillment centers continue to roll out a massive amount of cardboard, which is flooding America's homes. Just one in Jeffersonville, Indiana visited by Retail Dive earlier this year, houses 200,000 pairs of shoes, stacked across some four levels of storage space. One day in 2016, the facility shipped more than 60 million products in a day — 740 items a second, according to an Amazon guide leading the tour. It spits out 4,000-5,000 cardboard boxes worth of waste each day, which gets recycled through a third party contractor.
It's not just an Amazon problem, but an e-commerce one that has garnered a pile of criticism. Other retailers are also trying to solve it, including a reusable package from startup Limeloop. But such efforts require action from customers, simple though it may be, that detracts from Amazon's significant convenience proposition. In fact, while it's positioned as a way to re-use boxes, the company on Monday emphasized that the SmileCodes effort shows its "commitment to finding new ways to surprise and delight customers even after their package has been delivered."