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.”

By Edward Humes

What happens to our trash? Why are our oceans filling with plastic? Do we really waste 40 percent of our food 65 percent of our energy? Waste is truly our biggest problem, and solving our inherent trashiness can fix our economy, our energy costs, our traffic jams, and help slow climate change—all while making us healthier, happier and more prosperous.     This story-driven and in-depth exploration of the pervasive yet hard-to-see wastefulness that permeates our daily lives illuminates the ways in which we’ve been duped into accepting absolutely insane levels of waste as normal. Total Garbage also tells the story of individuals and communities who are finding the way back from waste, and showing us that our choices truly matter and make a difference.

Our big environmental challenges – climate, energy, plastic pollution, deforestation, toxic emissions—are often framed as problems too big for any one person to solve. Too big even for hope. But when viewed as symptoms of a single greater problem—the epic levels of trash and waste we produce daily–the way forward is clear. Waste is the one problem individuals can positively impact—and not just on the planet, but also on our wallets, our health, and national and energy security. The challenge is seeing our epic wastefulness clearly.

Total Garbage will shine a light on the absurdity of the systems that all of us use daily and take for granted—and it will help both individuals and communities make meaningful changes toward better lives and a cleaner, greener world.

We all need to wear clothes, and fashion can be a powerful and fun way to express oneself. However, more than 60% of the clothes we wear today are made of plastic. Common fibers like nylon, spandex, and polyester are derived from fossil fuels and, like all plastics, don’t break down in the environment. Low-quality fast fashion items are dumped in countries that can’t properly manage the waste, while tiny microfibers constantly shed from our clothing and make their way into our air, oceans, food, and bodies. Fortunately, there are small lifestyle changes we can make to reduce the harm caused by textiles…and it starts with doing less. Sign the pledge to do less!

The Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Movement’s 2023 Global Brand Audit results are here, with The Coca-Cola Company once again claiming the title of top global plastic polluter—meaning its products were found polluting the most countries with the most waste.

The annual brand audit is a participatory community initiative in which branded plastic waste is gathered, counted, and documented to identify the companies responsible for plastic pollution. The brand audits have been running for six consecutive years, following a methodology co-developed by BFFP member organizations.

In 2023, 250 brand audits were conducted by 8,804 volunteers in 41 countries. Together, they collected and audited 537,719 pieces of plastic waste. Participants from 97 civil society organizations documented 6,858 brands from 3,810 parent companies. 

Key insights from the report:

  1. The top global plastic polluters of 2023 are The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelēz International, Mars, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Danone, Altria, and British American Tobacco. “Top global plastic polluters” are defined as the parent companies whose brands were found polluting the most countries with the most plastic waste, according to the brand audit data.
  2. The Coca-Cola Company maintains its position as the #1 top polluter for the sixth consecutive year, setting a new record with a total plastic waste count of 33,820 – the highest tally for the company since the project’s inception.
  3. Legal actions against major corporations escalated in 2023, with lawsuits filed against Danone, Coca-Cola, and Nestlé in Europe. Brand audit data is instrumental in providing evidence for legal battles, underscoring the role of these audits in holding corporations accountable.
  4. For the first time, PepsiCo branded plastic waste items outnumbered those of The Coca-Cola Company. According to the methodology that considers how many countries a brand is found in, PepsiCo didn’t make the top polluter spot as their waste was found in 30 countries compared to Coca-Cola’s 40.

Through this effort, BFFP calls on consumer goods companies to:

  1. Reveal their plastic use by providing public data on the type and quantity of packaging used in different markets and the chemicals in that packaging.
  2. End support for false solutions such as burning plastic and chemical recycling. 
  3. Redesign business models away from single-use packaging of any type – including novel materials such as bio-based or compostable plastics.
  4. Invest in accessible, affordable reuse, refill, or packaging-free product delivery systems in all markets while ensuring a just transition for all relevant workers.

Experts review the known endocrine-disrupting impacts of micro- and nanoplastics on mammals. Studies show numerous harmful health impacts from plastic particle exposure.

Abstract: Over the years, the vast expansion of plastic manufacturing has dramatically increased the environmental impact of microplastics [MPs] and nanoplastics [NPs], making them a threat to marine and terrestrial biota because they contain endocrine disrupting chemicals [EDCs] and other harmful compounds. MPs and NPs have deleteriouse impacts on mammalian endocrine components such as hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, testes, and ovaries. MPs and NPs absorb and act as a transport medium for harmful chemicals such as bisphenols, phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ether, polychlorinated biphenyl ether, organotin, perfluorinated compounds, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organic contaminants, and heavy metals, which are commonly used as additives in plastic production. As the EDCs are not covalently bonded to plastics, they can easily leach into milk, water, and other liquids affecting the endocrine system of mammals upon exposure. The toxicity induced by MPs and NPs is size-dependent, as smaller particles have better absorption capacity and larger surface area, releasing more EDC and toxic chemicals. Various EDCs contained or carried by MPs and NPs share structural similarities with specific hormone receptors; hence they interfere with normal hormone receptors, altering the hormonal action of the endocrine glands. This review demonstrates size-dependent MPs’ bioaccumulation, distribution, and translocation with potential hazards to the endocrine gland. We reviewed that MPs and NPs disrupt hypothalamic-pituitary axes, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid/adrenal/testicular/ovarian axis leading to oxidative stress, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, cytotoxicity, developmental abnormalities, decreased sperm quality, and immunotoxicity. The direct consequences of MPs and NPs on the thyroid, testis, and ovaries are documented. Still, studies need to be carried out to identify the direct effects of MPs and NPs on the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.

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.