Amazon is trying to eliminate plastic that doesn’t get recycled. It’s actually making some progress.

    Amazon is trying to eliminate all plastic packaging from its fulfillment centers in North America.

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    Amazon said nearly all deliveries in North America no longer have plastic air pillows inside.This change avoids 15 billion air pillows a year, Amazon’s biggest plastic reduction effort yet.Companies are under pressure to reduce single-use plastics that pollute the environment.

    Nearly all Amazon deliveries in North America no longer include plastic air pillows, the e-commerce giant said on TK [date] Thursday.

    Amazon said the change will avoid some 15 billion air pillows — the company’s largest reduction in plastic packaging to date. Instead, Amazon is using a paper filler made from 100% recycled material that customers can recycle at home as part of a broader effort to eventually eliminate all plastic packaging from North American fulfillment centers. Amazon already met that goal in Europe this year.

    The switch to recycled paper comes as companies and governments are under pressure to phase out single-use plastics that are piling up in landfills and contributing to the climate crisis. The vast majority of plastics are made from oil and gas, can’t be recycled, and degrade into tiny particles that leach into the air and environment. Scientists have found those microplastics in human blood along with organs, including the liver, heart, lungs, and most recently, testicles, but the effects on our health are still being studied.

    For years, Oceana, a nonprofit that advocates for protecting oceans, has criticized Amazon’s ballooning plastic footprint as the company shipped billions of packages around the world. Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s senior vice president, told Business Insider that eliminating air pillows indicates Amazon is serious about its plastic reduction efforts in North America and welcome news for oceans. Plastic air pillows are made with a film that’s commonly found littering marine areas.

    Oceana recently estimated that Amazon generated more than 94,000 metric tons of plastic packaging waste in the US alone in 2022, a 9.6% increase over the previous year. It’s enough to circle the Earth more than 200 times in the form of air pillows, Oceana said.

    Amazon disputes Oceana’s figures and reported a lower amount of plastic packaging across its global operations in 2022: Nearly 86,000 metric tons, an 11.6% decrease from the previous year.

    Oceana said its estimates are higher than Amazon’s because the company doesn’t account for orders sent by third-party sellers. Those independent sellers account for more than 60% of Amazon’s sales. Amazon’s plastic packaging data reflects orders shipped through its own fulfillment centers — which some independent sellers opt for — and through its grocery business. The data isn’t broken down by country.

    “The first thing for us is to really test and learn and then scale what we can control within our own facilities,” Pat Linder, vice president of mechatronics and sustainable packaging at Amazon, told Business Insider. “That’s been our focus.”

    Linder pointed to an Amazon fulfillment center in Cleveland that last year became the first to eliminate plastic delivery packaging and replace it with paper that’s curbside recyclable. The effort involved rebuilding existing machines that package products. Additionally, the recyclable paper is better at protecting orders, Linder said.

    He added that Amazon will disclose the impact of these changes on the company’s plastic use in its next sustainability report.

    That report will also detail Amazon’s broader climate strategy. The company aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 while boosting sales and building more data centers that demand vast amounts of electricity.

    Between 2021 and 2022, Amazon’s carbon footprint dropped by 0.4%, although it was still higher than in 2019, the first year Amazon reported its emissions.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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