Amazon must curb its use of plastic packaging

In the interests of wildlife conservation, and the protection of our planet including the oceans, Amazon must take urgent steps to reduce the use of plastic in their packaging. This is the demand of any reasonable person including the campaign organisation Oceana of which Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s fiancée, is an adviser. And very thankful we are of her presence at the heart of the UK government.

Oceans polluted with plastic. Photo in public domain.

They have worked out how much plastic pollution Amazon creates from the data available to them. Amazon say that the data that they’ve used is inaccurate and that they have overestimated Amazon’s use of plastic in packaging but the company refuses to disclose the data and other specifics. Therefore they are doing themselves no favours or they are hiding information.

The assessment by Oceana is, as usual, shocking:

  • Amazon and its associates using their platform used 211,000 tonnes of plastic last year;
  • They packaged 7 billion items;
  • In the UK, 22,000 tonnes of plastic was used in their packaging;
  • About 10,000 tonnes of Amazon plastic ends up in the oceans, seas and waterways annually;
  • This works out at 1.36 tonnes every 70 minutes which is the equivalent of a van payload;
  • 87 per cent of more than 5,000 Amazon customers in the UK, Canada and the US wanted online retailers to offer plastic-free packaging at checkout (survey);
  • More than 665,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Amazon to offer alternatives to plastic in packaging.

Amazon said that they share Oceana’s ambition but that the marine conservation charity “had exaggerated its plastic use by over 350%”.

They also said: “Since 2015, we have reduced the weight of outbound packaging by more than a third, and eliminated almost one million tonnes of packaging material. As a founder member of The Climate Pledge, Amazon is committed to protecting the planet and continues to welcome informed, constructive dialogue with NGOs and others on these issues.”

It perhaps goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a massive surge in online purchasing greatly exacerbating the plastic packaging problem now and going forward. Amazon have a problem here because plastic pollution, particularly in the oceans is a priority problem that needs to be dealt with urgently. Amazon are going to have a publicity problem and they need to do something about it as they have done, incidentally, in India where they rapidly reduced plastic packaging replacing it with re-usable and paper packaging after India passed a law targeting plastic pollution.

Potato starch plastic packaging from The Times. Photo: MikeB.

If they can do it in India why can’t they do it in the rest of the world? It obviously comes down to cost and profit and we know that cleaning up the environment is going to be massively expensive. We will just have to pay for it. It’s about time consumers paid more for their products because they’ve become ridiculously cheap being manufactured in China, largely. I am constantly staggered by the cheapness of Amazon’s products. It’s wonderful to see and impressive but I’m conscious of the problems that this creates such as mentioned above and an increase in consumerism combined with a throwaway culture. It’s got to stop.