Recycling centers overwhelmed with boxes from online shopping

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BURBANK, Calif. (CBS) One after another, a train of trucks unloads at a Los Angeles-area recycling center. Natasha Gagarin emptied an SUV packed with empty boxes.

"Oh, well over 200. Well over," Gagarin said.

In the U.S. alone, Amazon used 6,000 trucks and 32 planes to get packages to its Prime members last year.

Kreigh Hampel is the recycling coordinator for the city of Burbank. Hampel says they are seeing an increase in the amount of cardboard.

"Absolutely, it's a tsunami of cardboard," Kreigh said. "Everything goes up by five to 10 percent during the holidays."

That's a concern for Hampel because the recycling process is so complex. The boxes are sorted and bundled, then he says they're loaded into containers and shipped across the Pacific to China. There, the boxes are soaked in water, stripped of staples and reborn as boxes.

But as Amazon says, they've put a new focus on sustainable packaging, moving over 100 million shipments from boxes to padded mailers in 2017.

"We make this kind of packaging easy to open, minimal waste and 100 percent recyclable," said Kara Hurst, the head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. "As a result, to date, we've eliminated 181,000 tons of waste."

Amazon does have a challenge in terms of its packaging. It wants it to be compact but it also wants to get to you intact. As for all the cardboard here, recycling centers say it could take until February for it to all be cleared out.