STATEMENT: Amazon announces ‘largest reduction in plastic packaging’ in North America

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LOS ANGELES — The retail giant Amazon announced on Thursday its plan to cut its use of plastic air pillows from deliveries in North America. The company claims that it has already replaced 95% of the plastic air pillows it used to put in packages in North America, and plans to phase them out entirely by the end of the year. This is expected to eliminate the use of 15 billion plastic air pillows every year. 

This announcement comes on the heels of a years-long campaign from PIRG, Environment America, Oceana and other environmental groups who have been calling on Amazon to reduce its use of plastic packaging because of its impact on the environment and public health. Most plastic packaging materials are not recyclable, so they end up in landfills or incinerators, or litter our waterways, roadways, forests and fields. 

According to a recent report, Truth in Recycling, by PIRG and Environment America’s research arms — U.S PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center — very little of Amazon’s plastic packaging gets recycled. Researchers placed tracking devices in 93 bundles of Amazon plastic packaging and put them in store drop-off locations designated by Amazon’s partner How2Recycle for recycling plastic film. Only four of the 93 went to a center that sorts plastic for recycling. The trackers indicated that most packaging ended up in landfills and incinerators, or were made into nonrecyclable products. These results demonstrate the need for the company to focus more on reducing the amount of plastic it uses in the first place.

In response to Thursday’s announcement, CALPIRG State Director Jenn Engstrom, a co-author of Truth in Recycling, released the following statement: 

“The plastic that Amazon and other e-retailers wrap around our online deliveries becomes waste as soon as recipients open their packages. That plastic trash litters our communities and pollutes our environment. We’re happy to see Amazon responding to customer demands to use less plastic by phasing out air pillows, because actions like this will have a positive impact on our planet. We urge Amazon to continue to look for innovative ways to reduce plastic packaging and single-use packaging altogether.”

Celeste Meiffren-Swango, Environment America’s Beyond Plastic campaign director, released the following statement:

“We’re glad to see a company as big as Amazon deliver on its promise to reduce its use of wasteful plastic packaging. The more we learn about the environmental and public health implications of our addiction to plastic, the more obvious it is that we need to cut way back on its usage. If our kids are going to inherit a less-polluted earth, actions such as Amazon’s are exactly what we need. Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our environment for hundreds of years.”