22/06/2024 3:19 AM

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The Queen Of Beauty

E-commerce beware: New Jersey lawmaker wants to ban big boxes for small items

So McKeon, a sponsor of a recently enacted law to ban single-use paper and plastic bags, went into legislator mode. He introduced a bill this month, NJ A2235 (22R), that would fine large retailers for shipping products in boxes that are more than twice their size.

“Online shopping is already responsible for large amounts of packaging waste on a daily basis,” the bill’s statement reads. “To reduce the packaging waste associated with online shopping, it is imperative that large online retailers and major retailers reduce the size of the shipping boxes utilized to ship their products to consumers.”

While McKeon’s experience was with Bed Bath & Beyond, a major New Jersey employer — Amazon — is perhaps best known for the small item-big package phenomenon. The company has been been trying to reduce its packaging, according to news reports, sending more small items in bubble mailing envelopes, for instance.

If McKeon’s proposal becomes law, companies that violate it would face fines of $250 to $500 per offense. It would not apply to small retailers, but to online businesses that have gross sales of more than $1 million in New Jersey, or retail stores with at least 75,000 square feet of space and 50 or more employees.

McKeon knows his proposal could run up against some influential opposition. New Jersey’s location in the middle of the Northeast megalopolis and extensive highway system make it a prime location for distribution centers for e-commerce retailers. The state has sprouted so many warehouses that they’ve become controversial.

McKeon said he has no idea why so any retailers put small items into big packages.

“I’m sure I’m going to learn,” he said, adding that he will likely amend the bill to make exceptions for fragile packages.

One packaging expert told the public radio show Marketplace that the average shipped package is dropped 17 times, which is why retailers ship in big boxes with lots of padding (McKeon’s Baby on Board magnet would likely survive being tossed down the Grand Canyon without a scratch).

“That would be the safest way. But of course that’s not the sustainable way,” Hae Chang Gea, director of the package engineering program at Rutgers University, told the program.

Since McKeon’s bill was just introduced, its prospects are unclear. But he believes it’s primed for passage.

“I think there’s a good chance it’s going to get to the finish line,” he said.