A report by environmental group Oceana has found that plastic waste from Amazon’s packages increased by 18% last year, but Amazon says it has reduced the use of single-use plastic across its network.
According to Oceana’s estimates, released Thursday, the Amazon’s plastic waste jumped from 599 million pounds in 2020 to 709 million pounds last year, an amount that can circle the planet more than 800 times in size of airbags, the group said.
For years, the advocacy organization has been pressing the company to release more data about its plastic footprint and commit to reducing the harmful environmental impacts that could result from it. That idea has come up for a two-vote vote at Amazon’s annual shareholder meetings for the past two years. The last vote, held in May, had the support of 48% of shareholders.
But the e-commerce giant had resisted calls to release more data until Tuesday, when it revealed in a blog post that it used 97,222 metric tons (more than 214 million pounds) of single-use plastic l ‘last year to send orders to customers. Amazon also said it was able to reduce the average weight of plastic in a shipment by more than 7%, but did not disclose whether its global plastic footprint grew between 2020 and 2021, when it was seeing a boom in sales due to the pandemic.
“While we are moving forward, we are not satisfied,” the company said in the blog post. “We have work to do to continue to reduce packaging, particularly plastic packaging which is more difficult to recycle, and we are undertaking a number of initiatives to do so.”
Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives, said it was good that Amazon released some data, but the numbers it released didn’t tell the whole story.
The company’s total data includes the plastic used in shipments that Amazon fulfills through its warehouses and other parts of its business, such as Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh. But it leaves out the one used by third-party merchants who sell items on Amazon but don’t use the company’s fulfillment services.
Saige Kolpack, an Amazon spokesman, said the company’s data reflects most of the plastic used to ship orders to customers because the “significant majority” of items shipped are fulfilled by Amazon. Kolpack declined to say how many of the nearly 2 million merchants who sell on Amazon use its fulfillment services.
The company has also said it offers incentives to get third-party sellers to ship items to customers in the original manufacturer’s packaging, rather than using additional packaging.
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