Action alert from Iowa Public Interest Research Group
Iowa PIRG is an independent, state-based, citizen-funded organization that advocates for the public interest and is a member of U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups.
Do you shop online with Amazon? Most of us have — the retail giant was behind half of all e-commerce transactions in 2018.1
Which means you’re probably familiar with the dilemma: Ordering from Amazon is fast and convenient, but the stuff you need often shows up at your door wrapped in tons of plastic.
That kind of waste is piling up fast. As of 2015, only 15 percent of all plastic packaging was recycled.2 And every plastic package that goes unrecycled has added to the monumental 6 billion tons of plastic waste that have ended up in landfills or our environment since 1950.3
Amazon has been spearheading a shift from bulky cardboard boxes to lightweight plastic mailers — a good move for its efficiency, but bad for the plastic waste catastrophe choking the planet. The new plastic mailers can’t be recycled at the curb, meaning most of them end up in the trash.4
Luckily, Amazon has already indicated that it’s thinking about a more sustainable path forward: The retail giant claims to be developing “a fully recyclable cushioned mailer that is recyclable in paper recycling streams.”5
The shift to lightweight, fully recyclable, non-plastic packaging can’t come soon enough. Plastic is creeping into every corner of our world. It’s been found in the deepest parts of the ocean, and raining from the sky over pristine mountains.6,7 Most recently, it’s turned up in the food we eat — to the tune of up to 52,000 tiny plastic particles consumed per person, per year.8
For the sake of our health and our environment, we need to stop using so much plastic — before we drown in it.
The more of us speak up to demand more responsible practices, the more likely the industry is to change. Amazon is already noticing its consumers’ desire for sustainability: The company claims to have cut more than a quarter million tons of packaging between 2007 and 2017.9
We have to let them know that we expect more. A company of Amazon’s size can not only do better, but lead the way for the rest of the shipping industry to make sustainable changes as well.
1. Kristen Millares Young, “Why Amazon’s new streamlined packaging is jamming up recycling centers,” The Washington Post, February 11, 2019.
2. “Containers and Packaging: Product-Specific Data,” Environmental Protection Agency, last accessed June 7, 2019.
3. Stephen Leahy, “Microplastics are raining down from the sky,” National Geographic, April 15, 2019.
4. Kristen Millares Young, “Why Amazon’s new streamlined packaging is jamming up recycling centers,” The Washington Post, February 11, 2019.
5. Kristen Millares Young, “Why Amazon’s new streamlined packaging is jamming up recycling centers,” The Washington Post, February 11, 2019.
6. Sarah Gibbens, “Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World’s Deepest Ocean Trench,” National Geographic, May 11, 2018.
7. Stephen Leahy, “Microplastics are raining down from the sky,” National Geographic, April 15, 2019.
8. Sarah Gibbens, “You eat thousands of bits of plastic every year,” National Geographic, June 5, 2019.
9. Jon Bird, “What A Waste: Online Retail’s Big Packaging Problem,” Forbes, July 29, 2018.
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