Amazon’s plastic pollution surges 29% in one year

Plastic pollution generated by Amazon deliveries grew by 29 per cent last year compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to new research.

A report from Oceana, the international advocacy organisation for ocean conservation, found that the e-commerce giant created around 599 million pounds of plastic packaging waste last year, when the company delivered billions of orders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisation also revealed that, based on data from a peer-reviewed study on plastic waste pollution published in Science last year, up to 23.5 million pounds of the company’s plastic packaging polluted the world’s waterways and oceans in 2020. Oceana explained that this is equivalent to dumping a delivery van’s payload of plastic into oceans every 67 minutes.

The organisation said that Amazon’s recycling promises “do not help to reduce plastic pollution” because its plastic packaging falls into the category of ‘plastic film’, which is extremely difficult to recycle and “not accepted at most curbside recycling programmes” in the UK, US, and other large markets.

Oceana claims that most of the waste is landfilled, burned, or pollutes the environment.

According to a secret shopper investigation by the organisation, Amazon directs customers who want to recycle their packaging to stores with designated drop-off locations through its Second Chance website.

Oceana sent secret shoppers into 186 of these stores in 25 cities in the UK and the U.S. It said that representatives from more than 40 per cent of the stores visited told the secret shoppers they would not accept their Amazon plastic packaging and managers at more than 80 per cent of stores visited did not know Amazon customers were being directed to their stores.

"Our report found that Amazon's plastic packaging pollution problem is growing at a frightening rate at a time when the oceans need corporate leaders like Amazon to step up and meaningfully commit to reducing their use of single-use plastic,” said Matt Littlejohn, Oceana's senior vice president for strategic initiatives. “Amazon has shown it can do this in large markets like India and Germany. It now needs to commit to do so worldwide.”

Retail Systems has approached Amazon for comment.

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