Audio Sources - Full Text Articles

Amazon used enough plastic air packets in its boxes to circle the planet 800 times in 2021, an outside group found. The company said it used far less.`

amazon warehouse packagesAmazon said it used 97,222 metric tons of single-use plastic to get orders to customers in 2021.

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Amazon said its plastic packaging footprint came to 97,222 metric tons in 2021.
  • The environmental group Oceana estimates the waste was more than three times that amount.
  • Amazon is under pressure to reduce plastic pollution, which is piling up in landfills and oceans.

This article is part of Insider’s weekly newsletter on sustainability, written by Catherine Boudreau, senior sustainability reporter. Sign up here.

Amazon made a big delivery ahead of the holidays.

The retailer, for the first time, disclosed this week how much single-use plastic it plowed through for all the goods it had shipped around the globe last year. The company’s announcement came after years of pressure from environmental groups and investors.

Amazon said it used 97,222 metric tons of single-use plastic to get orders to customers in 2021 and that it had been taking steps to reduce that amount, including phasing out some packaging that can’t be dropped into recycling bins and slashing the overall weight of packaging.

The vast majority of plastic ends up in landfills and waterways, where it harms marine life, and turns up in drinking water. Plastic also contributes to the climate crisis because it is largely made from oil and natural gas.

“While we are making progress, we’re not satisfied,” Amazon said in a blog post Tuesday, acknowledging that plastic packaging was hard to recycle.

The announcement landed days before the environmental group Oceana published an annual report on Amazon’s plastic footprint. Oceana estimated that Amazon used nearly 322,000 metric tons of plastic in 2021, more than triple what the company calculated.

Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives, told Insider there’s a discrepancy because Oceana accounted for all Amazon sales, while Amazon evaluated only shipments it handled through its warehouses around the world.

By Oceana’s count, Amazon used 52% more plastic last year compared with 2019, the first year the group conducted its analysis. It was enough to circle the planet more than 800 times if it were in the form of the air pillows often found in Amazon delivery boxes.

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider via email that a “significant majority” of sales were handled by the company’s fulfillment centers and that the company was also pushing suppliers to skip additional packaging. 

Amazon isn’t among the more than 100 companies, including Target, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo, that are disclosing how much plastic they use as part of a global initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

In 2021, Target, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo each used more plastic packaging than the previous year, contributing to an overall 4.3% increase across brands and retailers. But some companies, including Unilever, Clorox, and Nestlé, did make reductions.

Companies that don’t overhaul their plastic packaging, Littlejohn said, will likely be forced to as more governments try to control pollution by banning certain products, requiring more recycling, and making companies pay for handling the waste.

California, the largest economy in the US, passed a law in June to cut plastic packaging in the state by 25% over a decade. India this summer banned plastic products most likely to be littered, such as cups and straws. The European Union enacted a similar law in 2019, and officials want to go further by mandating specific cuts to packaging waste.

Amazon is an innovative company that defines how we all shop, Littlejohn said. It could be a leader on this issue.

“It’s just a matter of will,” he added. “Hopefully they will step up.”

Read the original article on Business Insider