Helena Lyng Blak
4 weeks ago

Amazon Plans To Make Largest Reduction of Plastic Packaging in North America To Date

Amazon's response to mounting criticism over its plastic waste with a new reduction plan.
Photo by kanvag
Photo by kanvag

For years, Amazon has been criticized for its excessive use of plastic in the e-commerce company’s packaging. 

According to estimates made by the environmental NGO Oceana, the American company generated 709 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2021——an increase of 18% from its 2020 estimation, which Amazon rejected. In 2022, Amazon’s production of plastic packaging waste in the US jumped an additional 10%, according to the NGO. 

However, the company says it is in the midst of a “multi-year effort to eliminate plastic delivery packaging” and seems to have been taking steps to reduce its plastic waste, getting rid of single-use plastic bags for orders shipped from its fulfillment centers in Europe and India, for example. 

Nevertheless, until now, Amazon has still been generating massive amounts of plastic packaging waste in the US, not least due to its use of plastic air pillows–inflated tubes of plastic that prevent packages from being damaged in transit. 

But on Thursday, June 20, 2024, Amazon announced that plastic air pillows in American packages would soon be a thing of the past. 

The company stated that 95% of its plastic air pillows have been replaced and that it is working towards a full removal by the end of the year. According to Amazon, it is the company’s largest plastic packaging reduction in North America to date, and the move will avoid nearly 15 billion plastic air pillows annually. 

“I’m proud of the cross-Amazon collaboration to make a positive impact on the customer delivery experience with easier to recycle materials. It’s a great example of how we thoughtfully test and scale new solutions to protect our customer experience,” said VP of Mechatronics and Sustainable Packaging, Pat Lindner, in a press release.

As Amazon is patting itself on its metaphorical back, Oceana too, is welcoming the news.

In a statement, Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, said, 

“As the world’s dominant e-commerce company, Amazon’s action to reduce plastic packaging is welcome news for the oceans and the company’s customers.”

But Oceana and other climate activists’ ambitions do not end there.

“While this is a significant step forward for the company, Amazon needs to build on this momentum and fulfill its multiyear commitment to transition its North America fulfillment centers away from plastic,” said Littlejohn.

“Then, the company should expand these efforts and also push innovations like reusable packaging to move away from single-use packaging everywhere it sells and ships.”

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