Online retail giant Amazon generated nearly 500 million pounds of plastic packaging last year, of which more than 22 million pounds ended up in rivers and oceans, according to a new report, potentially threatening CEO Jeff Bezos’ efforts to strengthen his company’s sustainability credentials.
According to research from the Oceana Ocean Conservation Charity, plastic air cushions and bubble wrap made up most of the waste from Amazon shipments, the use of which has grown rapidly in recent years. the report, who assumed that Amazon sent some 7 billion shipments last year alone, calculated that the combined length of air cushions used by Amazon in one year would circle the Earth 500 times. Additionally, the charity said, the size of the company’s plastic footprint is expected to increase as its global business grows.
Amazon has strongly disputed Oceana’s claims about the extent of the problem. In an email to Forbes.com, a company spokesperson said:
“We share Oceana’s ambition to protect and restore the world’s oceans, and we support reducing the use of plastics. However, Oceana significantly miscalculated Amazon’s plastic use and exaggerated it by over 350%: We use about a quarter of the plastic packaging estimated by Oceana’s report. “
The statement continued: “Since 2015, we have reduced the weight of outgoing packaging by more than a third and eliminated nearly one million tonnes of packaging material. As a founding member of The Climate Pledge, Amazon is committed to protecting the planet and continues to host informed and constructive dialogue with NGOs and others on these issues.
Oceana also conducted a survey of 5,000 Amazon customers, finding that 86% of those surveyed were “concerned” about plastic pollution. Noting that the company has already taken steps to eliminate single-use plastic waste at its operation in India, Oceana included in the report a series of measures Amazon could take to reduce its plastic impact.
Announcing the report, Oceana senior vice president Matt Littlejohn said, “The amount of plastic waste generated by the company is staggering and growing at a frightening rate,” Littlejohn said. “Our study found that the plastic packaging and waste generated by Amazon’s packaging is primarily destined not for recycling, but for landfill, incinerator or the environment, including, unfortunately, our tracks. waterways and our sea, where plastic can harm marine life. “
“It’s time for Amazon to listen to its customers, who, according to recent surveys, want plastic-free alternatives, and to make real commitments to reducing its plastic footprint,” he said.
Plastic waste causes immense evil to marine environments, poisoning and suffocating marine life and entering the food cycle. At least 8.8 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year. This rate is expected to increase as the production of plastic increases, and as oil companies invest more in plastic.
While the company has categorically rejected Oceana’s findings, the report raises key questions for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, who last month named the first recipients of its $ 10 billion “Earth Fund” intended to support climate action. Amazon complaints that since 2015, it has reduced the weight of its outgoing packaging by more than 33% and eliminated 900,000 tonnes of packaging material. The company also claims to have took action to make its packaging products easier to recycle and that it will recycle up to 7,000 tonnes of plastic film in 55 of its distribution centers each year.
But sticking to her research, Oceana noted that Amazon provides few details in its sustainability reports on its plastic packaging. Most of the plastics Amazon uses in its packaging are either non-recyclable or have little value in the recycling market, according to a Greenpeace report published this year. And even when plastics are recyclable, they only add to another problem: as previously reported by Forbes.com, a lack of recycling facilities and a low return rate mean that only around 9% of the world’s plastic waste is recycled; the rest ends up in landfill, is burnt or ends up in the natural environment.
In its survey of Amazon customers in the UK and North America, Oceana found that 92% “were upset that plastic recycling didn’t work” and 87% wanted Amazon to offer packaging choices. plastic free at checkout. At the time of writing, more than 665,000 Amazon customers have signed a change.org petition ask the company to offer plastic-free packaging options.
Among Oceana’s other recommendations for Amazon, the charity suggested “aggressively” expanding existing corporate programs to reduce plastic packaging, as well as expanding the use of reusable containers. The association also called on Amazon to improve sustainability transparency regarding reporting on plastic use and to consider the environmental impact of plastics in its high-level business decisions.