Amazon says it will eventually stop shipping packages in padded plastic bags in an effort to reduce packaging waste, according to sustainability report the company released on Tuesday.
“We are phasing out padded bags containing plastics in favor of recyclable alternatives,” the report says. But it’s missing an important detail: a deadline for when the company plans to make the change.
The company has not responded to questions about its plan since The Championship. “Our first goal is to eliminate packaging altogether whenever possible, and when additional Amazon packaging is required to ship a product, we strive to optimize that packaging for increased recyclability and reduced carbon emissions,” Amazon spokeswoman Elizabeth Fine said in an email.
“If Amazon follows through, this is good news for the oceans.”
Less than 10 percent of the world’s plastic waste ever to be recycled. The stuff is harder to rehash than paper; Plastic bottles are often “downcycled” into lower quality materials such as fibers for carpet. And plastic bags are even harder to recycle. Since municipal recycling programs typically cannot accept plastic bags or film, most people in the US would have to give their Amazon email addresses to designated drop-off points if they want to avoid the landfill.
The e-commerce giant probably uses more flexible plastic packaging than almost any other company in the world, according to activist shareholders which put pressure on the company to come up with a plan to reduce the waste. After packages reach customers’ doorsteps, much of the plastic ends up in landfill or escapes to sea as it is not accepted in most curbside recycling programs. As such, Amazon’s ditching of its ubiquitous blue and white padded packaging could have a significant impact on the growing amount of plastic pollution in the environment, advocates say.
“If Amazon goes through with it, this is good news for the oceans,” said Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president of the conservation organization Oceana, in a press release. “The company should also commit to a phase-in deadline and make a clear commitment to reduce all their plastic packaging as well as padded shipping addresses but this is real progress and will mean far less single-use plastic entering the world’s seas.”
Amazon used 11.6 percent less single-use plastic in its global shipping in 2022 compared to the previous year, the company says in its sustainability report. To do that, Amazon turned to more paper material and tried to make packages lighter. But that figure only includes Amazon-owned and operated fulfillment centers and not the network of third-party prep and packing facilities.