Does Amazon Recycle its Plastic Packages?

Does Amazon’s plastic packaging actually get recycled? Researchers with U.S. PIRG placed trackers in bundles of Amazon shipping materials and put them in store drop bins to see where they ended up.

Plastic packaging from e-commerce is a major producer of plastic pollution, generating 3.4 billion pounds of plastic globally in 2021 alone. Amazon is a significant contributor to this number, generating an estimated 709 million pounds of plastic just in 2021. Amazon claims much of its plastic packaging is recyclable, and offers a store drop-off system for its film packaging. Yet researchers found no evidence any of its plastic packaging is being recycled. The results paint a far different picture of what actually happens to Amazon’s plastic packaging when it is returned for “recycling.”

Consumer Reports tested popular fast foods and supermarket staples for chemicals commonly found in plastics called bisphenols and phthalates, which can be harmful to your health. Here’s what they found—and how to stay safer.

Researchers find that there are at least 150 chemicals that leach into drinks, including water, from single-use plastic bottles. At least 18 of those chemicals were found at levels that exceed EU chemical regulations.

Abstract: Chemicals can migrate from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) drink bottles to their content and recycling processes may concentrate or introduce new chemicals to the PET value chain. Therefore, even though recycling PET bottles is key in reducing plastic pollution, it may raise concerns about safety and quality. This study provides a systematic evidence map of the food contact chemicals (FCCs) that migrate from PET drink bottles aiming to identify challenges in closing the plastic packaging loop. The migration potential of 193 FCCs has been investigated across the PET drink bottles lifecycle, of which 150 have been detected to migrate from PET bottles into food simulants/food samples. The study reveals that much research has focused on the migration of antimony (Sb), acetaldehyde and some well-known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). It indicates and discusses the key influential factors on FCCs migration, such as physical characteristics and geographical origin of PET bottles, storage conditions, and reprocessing efficiency . Although, safety and quality implications arising from the recycling of PET bottles remain underexplored, the higher migration of Sb and Bishphenol A has been reported in recycled (rPET) compared to virgin PET. This is attributed to multiple contamination sources and the variability in the collection, sorting, and decontamination efficiency. Better collaboration among stakeholders across the entire PET bottles lifecycle is needed to ensure sustainable resource management and food contact safety of rPET.

The Joint Initiative for Sustainable Humanitarian Assistance Packaging Waste Management has prepared these guidelines to emphasize the importance of reducing packaging materials and prioritizing refusal and reduction over recycling due to the challenges of collection and recycling in areas where humanitarian operations take place.

To reduce packaging waste, it is important to choose packaging-free alternatives, advocate for suppliers of packaging materials to reduce packaging, eliminate single-use plastics, optimize the size of the packaging, and enable packaging to be reused or repurposed using innovative designs.

Following the waste-management hierarchy, this document also provides comprehensive guidelines to ensure sound management of packaging waste reuse and repurpose, recycling, and disposal in humanitarian operations.

Lead has been detected in a wide range of consumer products, including those made of or with plastic. As plastics are recycled, toxic lead is transferred into new consumer products and pollutes human bodies and the environment. Scientists propose that plastic pollution be classified as hazardous depending on its lead content and according to existing regulations on consumer plastics.

Abstract: X-ray fluorescence spectrometry has been employed to measure Pb in a wide range of consumer and environmental plastics, including food-packaging material, household goods, electronic casings, beach litter and agricultural waste. Results reveal high concentrations of Pb (>1000 mg kg−1) in historical items that are still in use or circulation (e.g. toys, construction plastics, wiring insulation) and variable, but generally lower concentrations in more recently manufactured articles. Analysis of Br, Cl and Cr, proxies for brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chromate pigments, respectively, suggests that as historical material is recycled, Pb from electronic plastics and pigments, but not PVC, is dispersed into a variety of newer products. Although most cases in the consumer sector comply with relevant EU Directives, some products that are non-compliant highlight shortfalls in regulations where recycling is involved and potential problems arising from the direct fashioning of industrial plastics into new consumer goods through attempts to be environmentally positive. The uncontrolled loss of historical and recycled plastics has also resulted in Pb contamination of the environment. Here, it is proposed that litter can be classified as hazardous depending on its Pb content and according to existing regulations that embrace consumer plastics.

Scientists find microplastics in 24 out of 28 samples of cloud water collected atop Mount Tai in China. The plastics found include PET, PP, PE, and PS, which together are found in synthetic fibers, clothing and textiles, packaging, and face masks.

Abstract: Airborne microplastics (MPs) have the potential to travel a long distance and undergo several cloud processes through atmospheric transport. However, little is known about the interactions between MPs and clouds. Here, we present field evidence for the presence of abundant and various MPs in cloudwater samples collected at Mt. Tai (1545 m asl.) in eastern China, with an average concentration of 463 MP L–1 in cloudwater, i.e., 0.21 MP m–3 in air. The cloud MPs had a broad size range of 8–1542 μm with 60% being smaller than 100 μm and dominant shapes of fragments with diverse polymers and darker colors. The concentrations of MPs were influenced by cloud liquid water content, source regions, and trajectory height, while the shapes and sizes appeared to be associated with long-range transport or localized sources. The roughened surface of cloud MPs indicated photochemical aging, which likely increased their adsorption capability for toxic metals (e.g., Pb, Hg) as confirmed by laboratory photoaging and adsorption simulations in ambient air, ultrapure water, and cloudwater. More research is needed to understand microplastic–cloud interactions and the potential impacts on atmospheric metal cycles and cloud formation.