Amazon just took another big step toward reducing its plastic waste. But the job’s not done.

So long, plastic air pillows.

Oceana | Used by permission

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This week, Amazon announced that it is in the process of phasing out plastic air pillows– those plastic film bags filled with air that show up with your online orders– from its shipments in North America by the end of this year. According to Amazon, it has already phased out 95% of air pillows in its shipments, and once phased out completely, will avoid 15 billion air pillows from being used every year. This is good news.

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 due to its impact on the environment and public health. In 2023, after receiving 138,000 petitions from the public, Amazon announced its plans to phase out plastic padded shipping bags and replace them with “more recyclable alternatives,” though no clear timeline was given. And now, the company plans to eliminate air pillows– another nefarious form of plastic packaging. 

Amazon’s recent commitments are steps in the right direction and can help move the industry away from wasteful single-use plastics that pollute our environment and harm public health. But Amazon is not off the hook yet– there’s still more that the retail giant can do to stem the tide of plastic pollution.

Amazon should phase out all single-use plastic packaging

We can try to do the right thing with all that plastic that comes with our packages. But the truth is that only a fraction of the plastic we use actually gets recycled. Some plastic is incinerated (with scary results for our air and our climate), but the vast majority of it is sent to landfills, where it’s supposed to stay.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Plastic pollution has been found throughout our environment, everywhere from the bottom of the ocean to the top of Mount Everest. Plastic pollution is especially devastating to our world’s oceans and the animals that call them home. 

As America’s largest online retailer, Amazon goes through a lot of plastic packaging. According to a report from Oceana, in 2021 alone, the company  generated 709 million pounds of plastic waste — enough to circle the planet 800 times in the form of plastic air pillows.

But that means that every action Amazon takes to reduce plastic has a big impact on our plastic pollution problem.

Amazon should continue to take steps to reduce plastic including setting an ambitious deadline for phasing out plastic padded shipping bags, fulfilling its commitment to phase out plastic air pillows, and eliminating the rest of their single-use plastic in its shipments, including other plastic film and bags.

Amazon has committed to eliminating single-use plastic packaging in Europe and eliminating all single-use plastic film in India. It should do the same here in the United States. And, eventually, Amazon should find innovative ways to move away from single-use packaging altogether.

Amazon should not promote misleading recycling labels 

Most plastic packaging materials, especially plastic film, are not recyclable, so they end up in landfills or incinerators, or litter our waterways, roadways, forests and fields. 

According to our recent report, Truth in Recycling, 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 stop labeling their plastic film packaging as recyclable, move away from recycling as a solution, and focus more on reducing the amount of plastic it uses in the first place.

Make your voice heard

By raising our voices together, we can convince Amazon to continue to reduce its reliance on plastic packaging.

It’s the same strategy that’s worked for us before. Across the country, our supporters have helped win statewide bans on single-use plastic bags and foam cups and containers — and as a result, 1 in 3 Americans today lives in a state with such a ban.

As for Amazon, it can’t solve the plastic waste problem all by itself. Yet each time a major company commits to eliminating its plastic waste, it paves the way for another to follow suit.

And in each of these actions, all of us — corporations, governments and individuals — can reduce the amount of plastic waste we’re generating so we can enjoy the cleaner air, parks, streets, beaches and waters that result.

Add your name to our petition urging Amazon to continue its efforts to move beyond single-use plastic packaging.


Jenn Engstrom

State Director, CALPIRG

Jenn directs CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts, and is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Jenn has served on the CALPIRG board for the past two years before stepping into her current role. Most recently, as the deputy national director for the Student PIRGs, she helped run our national effort to mobilize hundreds of thousands of students to vote. She led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics, and go 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.

Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.