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While Amazon is known for its convenient online shopping, it’s also contributing to a growing plastic pollution problem.
Oceana’s report gives a sneak peek into the reality of Amazon’s efforts to be transparent about plastic packaging waste and take action to reduce its environmental impact, but more transparency and action are needed.
In this blog, let’s analyze the report, the plastic pollution caused by Amazon, and its impact on the world.
Many of Amazon’s shipping boxes are made out of corrugated fiberboard, a super strong and durable material that can withstand harsh conditions like rain, snow, and rough handling by delivery workers as it travels from one location to another.
The boxes are also designed to be stackable to be easily moved around when they arrive at their destination. However, despite their strength and durability, these boxes are often used just once before being discarded.
The massive quantities of packaging waste are largely due to Amazon’s standard practice of shipping products in bulk directly from manufacturers to consumers. The boxes are then used to ship back returns or unused items.
The environmental effects of this package-based system can be seen across the globe — from plastic pollution in oceans and waterways to polluted urban areas and blighted landscapes.
In fact, in a new report by Oceana, it is estimated that Amazon is responsible for generating nearly 600 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in the US by 2020. The company generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging in 2019, which means it is on track to more than double its current levels by the end of the next decade.
While Amazon denies the report made by Oceana, it has yet to provide the current statistics to support its claims. Also, it’s notable that Amazon has never disclosed the amount of plastic waste it’s generating and Oceana has based its reports on independent industry analysts to conduct this research. While Oceana is open to creating a report if Amazon furnishes the data, that day is yet to come.
Amazon has eliminated single-use plastic packaging from products sold in India and has increased its use of returnable and reusable packaging in that market. In Germany, Amazon will also eliminate single-use plastic packaging for products such as batteries and cables sold on its online marketplace. However, in the United States and the United Kingdom, Amazon continues to sell products packaged with single-use plastics that are not recyclable.
Investigations by Oceana showed that when people reuse Amazon boxes or wrap their own purchases in reused materials, some stores will not accept these Amazon packaging. The findings underscore why legislation is needed to ensure that all retailers collect and recycle all types of plastic packaging waste.
And this is not the only time Amazon has been the center of scrutiny for adding to plastic pollution. More than 743,000 customers and the general public have got together to sign a petition asking Amazon to give them plastic-free choices for their shipping.
Tons of plastic packaging waste are expected to pile up within the next few years as Amazon continues its expansion efforts. Despite this statistic, the e-commerce giant still hasn’t updated its packaging practices to help cut down on plastic usage, as many other online retailers have already done.
While Amazon may not be directly responsible for manufacturing its packaging materials, it can likely do more to incentivize its shipping partners to use sustainable alternatives.
We have the potential to keep much of this packaging out of our landfills and oceans by using recyclable materials and finding ways to reuse or return items after they are used, but it can only be implemented if Amazon adopts a comprehensive plan to address its growing packaging problem.
With Amazon’s plans to expand, it must work to minimize the footprint it leaves on the environment.
Amazon needs to reduce plastic pollution by immediately scaling up its program to eliminate single-use plastics across all product lines. The company should also take immediate steps to ensure all packaging is recyclable and disclose how much plastic waste it generates via online sales and whether it recycles this waste.
If you’re a customer of Amazon, try not to discard the plastic and instead go for recycling options. Think about how much you can reuse the packaging boxes and the plastic packaging inside. If at all not possible, make sure to send it to a recycling plant instead of disposing of it in the environment.
Make sure to approach this issue sensitively, think about the long-term consequences of the plastic we dispose of, and do our best to reduce its impact on our surroundings.
Aashna is a Digital Marketing specialist with an experience of more than 5 years of working with various businesses varying from startups to established brands. Currently, she is working as a content strategist in Logicsofts. Logicsofts is one of the leading digital marketing agencies that offer professional website development and website management services at astoundingly affordable prices.