The New York Times recently looked at this problem, specifically the same-day delivery options like Postmates, Amazon Prime Now, UberRush and Google Express. It’s one thing when your delivery of toilet paper is part of a UPS route, and another when someone has been dispatched from the Amazon warehouse specifically to bring you that case of toilet paper.
How much fuel does that use, and how much extra pollution does it create? It’s hard to say exactly whether shoppers going to the mall or delivery drivers going to their customers pollute more, but one study in Delaware showed that the growth of online shopping meant more trucks circulating in the area, and more pollution.
Deliveries on foot or on bicycle work in some very dense urban areas, but that doesn’t solve the problem of packaging. Amazon has made progress in the last decade, since we began our “Stupid Shipping Gang” posts–the Times says that the retailer has taken advice that came in from their shipping feedback form seriously.
Recycling all of that cardboard makes us feel better, but a truck still has to pick up the cardboard and take it to the recycling plant.
E-Commerce: Convenience Built on a Mountain of Cardboard [New York Times]