Amazon eliminates 15 billion plastic ‘air pillows’ from delivery boxes

“We need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space. And keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.” These were the words of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, shortly after his Blue Origin flight into space. But industry has already polluted everything from the deep ocean to outer space with plastic and other space junk. A better idea would be for billionaires like Jeff Bezos and corporations like Amazon to stop polluting in the first place.

As Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space and dive to full ocean depth, said during our webinar Deep Ocean to Outer Space: Plastic Pollution Solutions, “There is no astronaut in the world that would not take extremely good care of the life support system on their spaceship. Master it completely, know everything about it, and never take the least bit of it for granted. We’re failing on all three of those accounts when it comes to the natural systems that are the life support system that we depend on.”

Bezos seems to think it’s okay to go on creating pollution, as long it is sent somewhere else. This “not in my backyard” mentality is at the heart of the plastic pollution crisis. Amazon produces more than 465 million pounds of plastic each year. And 91% of that is likely to end up polluting nature, in landfills, or incinerated, with much of it having been sent “away” from North America and Europe to countries in the Global South. 

A December 2020 report by Oceana found that Amazon was responsible for adding more than 22 million pounds of plastic pollution to the world’s oceans and waterways in 2019 alone—the equivalent of a delivery van’s worth of plastic entering the oceans every 70 minutes. And with Amazon’s net sales increasing by 38% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation today is undoubtedly worse.

Bezos says the spaceflight reinforced his commitment to solving climate change. But, as 122 organizations emphasized to Bezos and incoming Amazon CEO Andy Jassy in a letter sent on April 21, 2021, plastic is a key contributor to and driver of our climate crisis.

Jeff bezos wants pollutes space

“Plastic releases greenhouse gases at every stage of its life cycle,” says Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. In fact, if plastic were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter.”

“You have to start, and big things start with small steps,” Bezos said after his spaceflight. If Bezos is serious about tackling climate change, he and new CEO Andy Jassy can start by shifting Amazon to plastic-free, reusable packaging.

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Tell Amazon and their vendors to stop using unnecessary single-use plastic packaging and polluting our planet and beyond. Sign this petition urging them to do so.

Join our global Coalition.

120+ organizations send a letter urging Amazon to take concrete steps to reduce its staggering plastic pollution detailed in recent Oceana report

 For Immediate Release: April 21, 2021

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A coalition of 120+ environmental organizations and community groups from around the world is calling on Amazon.com to address the staggering amount of single-use plastic pollution it generates by shifting to plastic-free and reusable packaging. 

The groups sent a letter urging Amazon’s outgoing and incoming CEOs, Jeff Bezos and Andy Jassy to take immediate steps to prevent the more than 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste the company produces on an annual basis. A December 2020 report by Oceana found that Amazon was responsible for adding more than 22 million pounds of this plastic pollution to the world’s oceans and waterways in 2019, alone. As serious as the statistics detailed in Oceana’s report are, the situation today is undoubtedly worse as Amazon’s net sales increased by 38% in 2020 due to a massive spike in sales driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The company refuses to disclose its plastic footprint and has yet to make real commitments to reduce its plastic use,” said Oceana’s Senior Vice President, Matt Littlejohn who noted that “based on what we currently know, the dramatic rise in sales in 2020 likely means that there was also a frightening jump in plastic packaging waste, which because so little is recycled, flooded our communities, landfills and – ultimately – our oceans and waterways.”

Oceana’s report notes that Amazon’s 2019 impact was the equivalent of dumping a delivery van’s worth of plastic into the oceans every 70 minutes. With at least 15 million metric tons of plastic waste entering our oceans each year, it’s no surprise that an estimated 90% of all seabirds and more than half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic. The plastic films used in Amazon packaging are often mistaken for food by sea turtles, which can prove fatal.

Although Amazon.com is currently a major plastic polluter, the letter signers note that Amazon is uniquely positioned to lead the e-commerce industry away from the disaster of single-use plastic and towards plastic-free, carbon neutral, zero-waste delivery systems. 

Amazon has already demonstrated the ability to rapidly reduce plastic packaging on a large scale. After the Indian government passed a law to address plastic pollution, Amazon India eliminated plastic packaging from its fulfillment centers and introduced a paper-based lightweight mailer that it reports has been used 100 million times. However, despite requests from its customers, Amazon has thus far failed to apply these clear steps forward on a company-wide level to solve its plastic pollution problem. 

“Amazon could eliminate plastic packaging with a single, top-down decision, if its CEO were motivated to do so,” said Eve Fox, Digital Director of Beyond Plastics, adding “changing the marketplace conditions to favor reuse, bolster recycling, and shift the responsibility for dealing with waste from consumers to producers are among the reasons we support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act that was recently reintroduced in Congress by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Alan Lowenthal.”

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (H.R. 2238, S.984), introduced in March by Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), directs the EPA to implement Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to shift the financial responsibility for collection, processing, and recycling of packaging waste from consumers to producers. The bill also pauses permits for new and expanded plastic production facilities, phases out certain single-use plastics that aren’t recyclable, requires  post-consumer recycled content in packaging, and spurs investment in recycling and composting infrastructure.

The letter, signed by 122 organizations from around the globe including Beyond Plastics, Oceana, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Greenpeace USA, Climate Reality Project, Changing Markets Foundation, New York Public Interest Research Group, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, Center for International Environmental Law, Clean Water Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Story of Stuff calls on Amazon to improve transparency in its sustainability reporting and to:

  • Disclose the size of its plastic footprint in its annual sustainability reports, starting in 2021.
  • Commit to shifting to plastic-free packaging worldwide by 2025 with annual plastic packaging reduction targets of 25%.
  • Create strict plastic-free packaging requirements for all vendors and sellers in its marketplace worldwide by 2022.
  • Begin to shift to reusable packaging systems globally, and utilize zero-waste packaging systems, starting in 2021.

“Plastic is not only a problem for our oceans, it is also a major driver of the climate crisis,” said Dianna Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Plastic is made from a combination of chemicals and ethane – a byproduct of hydrofracked natural gas and releases greenhouse gases at every stage of its life cycle. In fact, if plastic were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter.”

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Additional Resources:

Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project based at Bennington College in Vermont, that pairs the wisdom and experience of environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of activists to achieve the institutional, economic, and societal changes needed to save our planet, and ourselves, from the plastic pollution crisis. Learn more: BeyondPlastics.org

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. Visit Oceana.org to learn more.

Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 75 countries working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment. Learn more at PlasticPollutionCoalition.org

Washington, D.C. – The global Plastic Pollution Coalition has released a new petition demanding Amazon.com reduce their plastic footprint on the earth. The campaign is timed with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of Amazon’s biggest money-making days of the year. 

“If you are one of Amazon’s 100 million+ customers, you have seen the e-commerce giant’s plastic problem,” reads the petition copy, which has been signed by more than 3,000 people in advance of Black Friday. “From polystyrene packing peanuts to non-recyclable bubble wrap to plastic-wrapped pouches of air, nearly every Amazon order arrives buried in heaps of wasteful single-use plastic packaging. All of this plastic packaging is designed to be used once and will plague our planet for generations to come.”

According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, plastic pollutes across its lifecycle, from extraction to use and disposal. More than 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution ends up in our oceans each year, wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Studies show that 91 percent of plastic is not recycled. 

“Plastic pollution poses a very serious threat to our environment and our health,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics, a member of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “And yet, Amazon and other online consumer companies are turning a blind eye and making the problem much worse, sending out millions of packages entombed in plastic that cannot be reused or recycled. Amazon and other companies need to embrace reusable packaging and they need to make that shift fast.”

“As Amazon’s share of the ecommerce market steadily grows, the tidal wave of pointless plastic packaging polluting our planet will only continue to increase exponentially,” said Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Join us in challenging Amazon to stop polluting the planet with single-use plastic today.”

Sign the petition.

Learn more.