Amazon’s Plastic Waste Continues to Grow in the US

A recent report from the nonprofit conservation organization Oceana has revealed some alarming statistics regarding Amazon’s plastic waste generation in the US. Despite the company’s pledges to reduce plastic packaging, it was estimated that Amazon produced 208 million pounds of plastic waste in the United States in 2022 alone. This marks a significant increase from the previous year, with a nearly 10 percent jump in plastic waste generation.

While Amazon claims to have reduced its use of plastic packaging globally by 11.6 percent in 2022 compared to the prior year, the situation in the US remains a cause for concern. The country is considered an outlier in Amazon’s efforts to tackle plastic waste, with Oceana calling for more progress to be made. The lack of transparency in Amazon’s reporting on plastic waste generation adds to the challenge of assessing the true extent of the problem.

In response to Oceana’s report, Amazon’s vice president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging, Pat Lindner, dismissed the findings as “misleading” and “exaggerated.” He pointed to the company’s efforts to eliminate plastic delivery packaging from its US fulfillment centers, citing examples from Europe and India where similar measures have been implemented. However, the transition away from plastic packaging in the US has been slow, with only one fulfillment center in Ohio making the switch to paper alternatives in 2023.

One of the major challenges associated with plastic packaging is its limited recyclability. Plastic film bags, commonly used for packaging, are not typically accepted in curbside recycling programs due to their composition. This poses a dilemma for consumers who wish to divert plastic waste from landfills and incinerators, as they would need to find designated drop-off locations to dispose of these materials properly.

While Amazon has expressed vague commitments to phase out certain types of plastic packaging, such as padded bags containing plastics, the lack of a clear timeline raises questions about the company’s dedication to sustainability in its operations. Oceana is calling for more stringent measures to be taken, especially in Amazon’s home base, the US, where the bulk of its plastic waste is generated. Ultimately, the onus is on Amazon to take decisive action to curb its plastic waste footprint and uphold its environmental responsibilities.

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