Oceana Report: Amazon’s Plastic Waste Problem Continues to Grow
Earlier this month, Oceana issued its latest report. Among its key findings was that in 2021, Amazon’s plastic waste generation increased 18 percent year over year and amounted to 709 million pounds – enough plastic waste to encircle the globe with plastic air pillows more than 800 times.
At its General Meeting in May 2022, nearly half of Amazon’s shareholders voted in favor of a resolution urging the company to be transparent about, and to proactively address, its growing plastic packaging waste problem. In a blog post dated December 13th of this year, Amazon stated that in 2021, the company used over 214 million pounds of plastic in single-use packages, achieving more than a 7-percent reduction in plastic material use per shipment. While Oceana applauded the shift toward transparency, it pointed out that the disclosure ignores Amazon orders that are fulfilled through third-party sellers, and that Amazon has yet to disclose how much its global plastic packaging footprint grew from 2020 to 2021 – a time period during which sales expanded 22%.
Oceana points out the obvious: as Amazon sales increase, so too does the company’s global plastic footprint. In a press release to EcoWatch, Oceana’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Matt Littlejohn, stated, “The science is clear, the type of plastic used by Amazon for its packaging is a threat to the oceans. Customers and shareholders are calling for the company to act. It’s time for Amazon to, as it has on climate, step up and commit to a global reduction in its use of plastic packaging.”
In Amazon’s defense, the eCommerce behemoth has implemented numerous changes to address the problem. For example, Amazon has developed paper-padded mailers and returnable plastic packages, and has shifted away from all-plastic packaging in Germany – its second largest market worldwide. In a company blog post, Amazon also promised to do more to reduce plastic packaging, for instance, by reducing the size of packages to better fit products; by shifting to such alternative materials as padded paper; and by increasing the ratio of recycled content in its U.S. packaging film from 25 to 50 percent.
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