In a recent report by the nonprofit conservation organization Oceana, it was estimated that Amazon’s plastic waste in the US has continued to grow, despite pledges to cut down on plastic packaging. The company generated a staggering 208 million pounds of plastic waste from its packaging in the US in 2022 alone. This amount of plastic waste is enough to circle Earth more than 200 times in the form of plastic air pillows. This marks a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year, highlighting the alarming trend of increasing plastic waste.

Global Reduction vs. US Expansion

While Amazon claims to have reduced its use of plastic packaging by 11.6 percent globally in 2022 compared to the prior year, the US remains a troubling outlier. Oceana argues that the US, being Amazon’s largest market, is where the company needs to make significant progress in reducing plastic waste. This raises the question: why are US customers being left behind in Amazon’s efforts to cut down on plastic packaging?

Lack of Transparency

One of the major challenges in assessing Amazon’s plastic waste footprint is the lack of transparency in its reporting. The company’s latest sustainability report for 2022 does not break down the data by country, making it difficult to track the extent of plastic waste generated in specific regions. Additionally, Amazon does not report on all the plastic waste generated by orders fulfilled by third-party sellers, further complicating the issue.

In response to Oceana’s report, Amazon’s vice president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging, Pat Lindner, dismissed the analysis as “misleading” and “exaggerated.” He pointed to the company’s efforts to eliminate plastic delivery packaging from its US automated fulfillment centers. While Amazon has made strides in phasing out single-use plastic delivery bags in Europe and India, the transition has been slower in the US.

Plastic film bags, commonly used for packaging, pose a challenge in recycling as they are not accepted in curbside recycling programs. These bags are trickier to rehash than other types of plastic, such as bottles, and consumers must take them to designated drop-off locations to prevent them from ending up in landfills or incinerators. Amazon’s commitment to phase out padded bags containing plastics in favor of recyclable alternatives is a step in the right direction, but more concrete actions and timelines are needed to address the growing plastic waste crisis.

Oceana emphasizes the importance of Amazon phasing out plastic packaging in its home base, the US. As one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world, Amazon has the opportunity to lead by example and set a precedent for sustainable packaging practices. By taking bold steps to reduce plastic waste and increase transparency in reporting, Amazon can make a significant impact in the fight against plastic pollution. It is crucial for companies like Amazon to prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility to protect our planet for future generations.

Tech

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