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Amazon's battle against wire ties and plastic clamshells continues

All of the recent news coverage about online retailer giant Amazon has focused on the concept of delivery drones. But lost in all the futuristic and sci-fi talk, is Amazon's battle against what it calls, "annoying wire ties and plastic clamshells."

All of the recent news coverage about online retailer giant Amazon has focused on the concept of delivery drones. But lost in all the futuristic and sci-fi talk, is Amazon's battle against what it calls, "annoying wire ties and plastic clamshells."

Amazon recently announced that its frustration-free packaging initiative, a multi-year effort to offer products without hermetically sealed clamshell cases and plastic-coated steel-wire ties, now offers more than 200,000 items, up from 19 when the initiative was launched five years ago. The company claims that in an effort to alleviate the frustration many people experience when opening toys and electronics, Amazon works with manufacturers to deliver products inside smaller, easy-to-open, recyclable cardboard boxes that reduce the overall amount of packaging used while still protecting what's inside.

The initiative is so important to the company; it even quoted its CEO in the news release. "We've all experienced the frustration of trying to remove a product from nearly impenetrable packaging like plastic clamshell cases and products bound by dozens of wire ties," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. "We've worked with both manufacturers and customers to design frustration-free packaging that is easy-to-open, protects the product and reduces waste. We now have more than 2,000 manufacturers in the program."

Participation in the initiative has grown from four to more than 2,000 manufacturers, including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Unilever, Seventh Generation, Belkin, Victorinox Swiss Army, Logitech and many more. To date, Amazon has shipped more than 75 million frustration-free items to 175 countries.

In addition, the company says this initiative reduces waste for customers through the elimination of 58.9 million square feet of cardboard; removal of 24.7 million pounds of packaging; and the reduction of box sizes by 14.5 million cubic feet.

Amazon customers have helped guide the program with their ratings and feedback on product packaging. The company says that this advice has been the driving force behind hundreds of packaging improvements each year. Here's what customers are saying about frustration-free packaging:

"Amazon, if I could, I would seriously make out with you right now. Yes, I said it."

"The old frustration full packaging took scissors and blood and sweat to open. The new way is perfect! Pull cardboard tab, open envelope, memory card in hand."

"I am a huge fan of Amazon Frustration Free Packaging...Thank you for offering packaging that allows me to access my purchases without endangering myself."

"This was the best packaged item I've ever received from Amazon. No extra box, no frills. Just stick the sticker on the box and go. Way to be sustainable folks!"

Nobody's perfect

In order to receive the certification, the packaging must be easy-to-open, consist of recyclable packaging, and ship in its own package without an additional shipping box. Amazon says it works directly with manufacturers to box products in frustration-free packages right off the assembly lines, which reduces the overall amount of packing materials used.

Amazon is clearly working to reduce waste along with helping to alleviate wrap rage, the name given to describe the high levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open certain forms of packaging, which includes plastic blister packs and clamshells.

But according to a study in Consumer Reports, frustration-free can still cause costly headaches.

"In online comments, some buyers have said that frustration-free packages didn't protect well enough," the article stated. "One said a computer hard drive was packed so loosely that it arrived damaged, and a replacement showed up in the same condition."

In addition, Consumer Reports shopped for three items on Amazon.com comparing prices for the frustration-free and traditional packaging. For every product it researched, the one sold by Amazon in frustration-free packaging was pricier.

An Amazon spokeswoman told the publication that frustration-free items have undergone transit tests to ensure they're properly packaged and that Amazon works with manufacturers and shippers to resolve any issues.

So is frustration-free packaging really free of frustration?

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