According to the report, Amazon’s shipping centers used just over 107,000 tons of plastic in 2021.
However, last year, the company changed its policies to start phasing out plastic bags for shipping, switching to paper instead. It also started shipping some products in its own original packaging instead of putting them in Amazon packages.
The result was a reported total of just under 95,000 tons of plastic used in 2022.
Plastic packaging has several drawbacks that make it a good idea to phase it out. As Amazon pointed out in its report, the packages were often larger and heavier than necessary, raising shipping costs. The new right-sized, paper-based options are lighter, shaving down costs.
Meanwhile, plastic is a major environmental issue, especially single-use plastic like parcel packaging. Plastic is made from oil, which pollutes the environment when companies harvest it.
Also, at the end of its life, the vast majority of plastic doesn’t get recycled. It also doesn’t decay naturally, even after decades. Instead, it ends up taking up space in landfills, cluttering up the ground as litter, or floating in the ocean. Once in the water, it’s dangerous for sea life, as the animals can get stuck in it or eat it, often with deadly results.
Even more alarming, large plastic trash breaks up and sheds microplastics, which have now been found throughout the world, including inside the human body. The health effects of this issue are still unknown.
Because of all these issues, eliminating 12,000 tons of plastic packaging is a big deal. However, Amazon still has further to go.
Douglass Guernsey, a shareholder advocate for Green Century Capital Management, told Grist, “I would like them to make a statement saying, ‘We’re phasing out single-use plastic. We’re Amazon, we can do that.’”
Guernsey added that he’d like the company to commit to a deadline and also release more information about the plastic it does use, such as whether it’s recyclable.
“Investors care about this,” Guernsey told Grist. “The shareholder process has been incredibly important … and we’re going to continue to use it to pressure the company to reduce its environmental footprint.”
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