Perhaps you’ve placed an order and they’re standing right outside your front door. Shiny. Pretty. Insulated bags loaded with yummy items.
Amazon Prime, which offers doorstep drop-offs from Whole Foods, uses silvery plastic padded bags when packing up refrigerated and frozen items. While they seem to work nicely for delivering frosty food, the empties deserve attention. We’re doing just that.
We’re featuring useful ideas for repurposing them as well as focusing attention on how they factor into the plethora of unnecessary plastic waste.
Ideas for reusing and upcycling the foil insulated bags are plentiful. They are useful as-is — especially when you need a padded pouch. For example:
- Lunch bag: Designed to protect your food delivery, they can help keep your lunch fresh.
- Padded storage: Store or pack up dishes and other items that need extra protection. You can also slice into sheets and layer between plates.
- Gift bag: Simply pop in a present. The sparkly silver exterior looks fancy and the padding helps protect the contents. Use it in its original form or pull out your scissors and devise a different shape, such as a tall thin sack for wrapping organic wine.
For other projects, they’re quite versatile and a snap to work with.
- Forehead cushion for DIY face shields: Use instead of foam. Roll a section of the padded pouch into a log shape and affix it with glue or tape to the top of the shield. Tailor the thickness of the log to adjust the distance between your face and the transparent plastic shield. See examples of DIY face shields from Michael’s and Woodbrew on YouTube.
- Gift bows: Instead of paper, use pieces of the pouch. WikiHow has examples of DIY gift bows.
- DIY rain shield: Stow a few empties in your vehicle. If you forget your umbrella, use it as a rain shield for yourself, or your laptop.
- Party decoration: Slice into strips and form a garland of interlocking loops with a stapler or tape — an ideal project for kids.
- Portable seat padding: This makes a lightweight portable seat for picnics, sports events, or other activities when you want to protect your tush.
- Art projects: Use the material instead of paper or fabric for such ventures as DIY picture frames, jewelry, and wallets.
- Costumes: Reuse the shiny material for decorating Halloween accessories and costumes.
The innovative folks at UpCycle Creative Reuse Center in Virginia shared some other ideas, including:
- Sun shield in your vehicle
- Wrap-around insulation for cans of soda, beer, or other frosty beverages
The Amazon website provides information on its different packaging types and directions for recycling or disposing of each type.
Foil insulation is not recyclable and should be put in your garbage bin,” the website states.
While traditional household recycling services likely won’t accept the bags, TerraCycle does. Purchase a Zero Waste Box for recycling shipping materials (current cost is $93 to $217). When you return the box to TerraCycle, the material is sorted and processed into raw materials for producing recycled plastic items, such as shipping pallets, composite decking, and recycling bins.
Reducing Insulated Foil Packaging
From our experience ordering groceries from Amazon Prime, there’s no obvious platform for requesting paper bags instead of these silver insulated bags when frozen and refrigerated items are on the shopping list.
We’ve emailed the question to Amazon’s media relations office but did not receive a reply.
Environmental advocates and lawmakers want businesses and manufacturers to assume more responsibility for single-use plastic products and encourage them to offer sustainable solutions.
“It isn’t an issue of proper waste management or finding alternative uses for things. Forty percent of the plastic that is clogging our earth is single-use plastic like these stupid bubble wrap pouches,” says Sarah Pierpont, executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition.
A petition on change.org asks Amazon to offer other options to customers. It states,
… customers are unable to request minimal plastic bags for produce. Other grocery delivery services, such as Instacart, use paper bags and are responsive to requests for minimal plastic bag use. Tell Amazon that you want the option of sustainable grocery delivery!”
Over 7,000 people have signed so far.
Editor’s note: After this article was originally published, Amazon announced new packaging for U.S. grocery delivery of frozen and chilled foods from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market. Amazon reports the packaging is made from recycled paper, layered for insulation, and curbside recyclable.