Amazon’s Big Role in Ocean Plastic Pollution

Oceana has today released a report[1] – based on an analysis of e-commerce packaging data – that found Amazon generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste last year. This is comprised of the air pillows, bubble wrap, and other plastic packaging items added to the approximately 7 billion Amazon packages delivered in 2019, according to news accounts.[1] The report found that Amazon’s estimated plastic packaging waste, in the form of air pillows alone, would circle the Earth more than 500 times.

The study also, by combining the e-commerce packaging data with findings from a recent study published in Science,[2] estimates that up to 22.44 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste entered and polluted the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems in 2019, the equivalent of dumping a delivery van payload of plastic into the oceans every 70 minutes.

“The amount of plastic waste generated by the company is staggering and growing at a frightening rate,” noted Oceana’s Senior Vice President, Matt Littlejohn. “Our study found that the plastic packaging and waste generated by Amazon’s packages is mostly destined, not for recycling, but for the landfill, the incinerator, or the environment including, unfortunately, our waterways and sea, where plastic can harm marine life. It’s time for Amazon to listen to its customers, who, according to recent surveys want plastic-free alternatives, and make real commitments to reduce its plastic footprint.”

Plastic is a major source of pollution and is devastating the world’s oceans. Recent studies estimated that 90% of all seabirds[3] and more than half of all sea turtles – 52%[4]  –  have ingested plastic. Sea turtles and other ocean animals mistake the kind of plastic used by Amazon as food, which can ultimately prove fatal. Eighty-eight percent of animals found to have swallowed or have been entangled in plastic, according to a recent Oceana study, were species listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act.[5] Scientific reports have estimated that only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled and 91% has ended up in landfills, incinerated, or in the environment, including the oceans.[6] The rapidly growing plastic pollution crisis needs to be solved by major plastic polluters like Amazon taking steps to reduce plastics, rather than making empty claims about recycling.

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