Does Amazon Have a Plastic Pollution Problem?

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
January 11th, 2022
7:43 AM

The studies estimate that the e-commerce giant generated more than 270,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in its shipments, of which 10,600 tonnes ended up in rivers and seas.

Environmental organisation Oceana has released a report revealing that e-commerce giant Amazon generated around 270,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste last year, due to the billions of packages delivered by the company during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a 29% increase on Oceana's estimates for 2019. The organisation also found, based on data from a peer-reviewed study on plastic waste pollution published in Science in 2020, that as much as 10,600 tonnes of this plastic waste entered the world's waterways and seas. That's equivalent to dumping the plastic payload of a delivery van into the oceans every 67 minutes. "Our report found that Amazon's plastic packaging pollution problem is growing at an alarming rate at a time when the oceans need corporate leaders like Amazon to step up and make a meaningful commitment to reducing single-use plastic use. Amazon has shown it can do this in large markets like India and Germany. Now it must commit to doing so globally," says Matt Littlejohn, Oceana's Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. Studies cited by Oceana have estimated that 55 per cent of seabirds, 70 per cent of marine mammals and 100 per cent of sea turtles have ingested or become entangled in plastic, and have found that plastic film is one of the most lethal forms of plastic to marine life. Furthermore, scientific reports estimate that only 9% of all plastic produced so far has been recycled. Oceana has asked Amazon - which last year questioned the environmental organisation's estimate - to provide data on its plastic footprint, but so far the company has refused to do so. The amount of plastic packaging waste Amazon is estimated to have generated in the form of air pillows would circle the planet more than 600 times, according to Oceana. At the end of last year, Oceana published a report saying that Amazon had generated more than 211 million kilos of plastic packaging in 2019. Amazon's Response to the Figures The e-commerce giant claimed that "their calculations are seriously flawed". "They have overestimated our use of plastics by more than 300% and use outdated assumptions about the sources of plastic waste entering our oceans," they said in a press release. It’s worth noting that around 20 companies worldwide are responsible for the majority of plastic waste that ends up in the world's oceans and does not include Amazon, according to the Plastic Waste Makers Index. Petrochemical companies such as ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical and Sinopec are on the list. These three companies alone account for almost 20% of the world's single-use plastic waste, according to the index. Instead of companies like Amazon, which use plastics for packaging, the index targets the source of the world's single-use plastics: the companies that produce the polymers to create them.