A new Oceana report shows that in 2019, Amazon produced more than 211 million kilograms of plastic packaging waste. This year, because of the global health pandemic, more people are shopping online than ever before – and here in Canada, the e-commerce giant holds 48 per cent of the market share. On top of this, many of us are ordering more of our holiday gifts online than usual out of necessity, and the amount of plastic packaging waste ending up on our doorsteps may feel overwhelming.
Many Canadians living remotely, or even in larger cities, rely on being able to buy goods online – but they don’t want all the unnecessary plastic waste that comes with it that is choking the ocean and harming marine life. Instead, Canadians, and the Amazon customers Oceana surveyed this year, are asking online retailers to provide plastic-free packaging choices.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced his intent to give $10 billion to environmental organizations and publicly stated that his donation will help environmental activists “working on innovative, ambitious and needle-moving solutions” to climate change. However, Amazon must also take leadership and address its own significant plastic footprint. Oceana’s report shows that of the estimated 211 million kilograms of plastic waste generated by Amazon each year, approximately 10.18 million kilograms ends up in the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems.
This is the equivalent of dumping a delivery van of plastic into the ocean every 70 minutes.
Amazon’s Canadian plastic footprint is disproportionately large, generating an estimated 21.3 million kilograms of plastic waste in Canada in 2019 – 1.2 times more than in India, and more than Japan, Brazil, Spain and Mexico combined. Canada already has a plastic pollution problem, with more than half of Canada’s plastic waste coming from packaging.
The type of plastic most often used in packaging by Amazon – referred to as plastic film in recycling terms – is most often not recycled, despite the company’s claims of recyclability.
Plastic film has little to no value in the recycling market and is most often landfilled, burned or leaked into the environment, including our oceans. Most municipal curbside recycling programs in Canada, the U.S. and the UK do not accept this type of plastic – not surprising when you consider that only nine per cent of all plastic ever has been recycled.
The solution is to reduce plastic production in the first place. And for this solution to be effective, big corporate polluters need to take responsibility.
To put Amazon’s estimated contribution to the plastic disaster in perspective: Plastic packaging waste generated by Amazon in just one year – in the equivalent of “air pillows” alone – would circle the Earth more than 500 times.
When forced by regulation, Amazon successfully reduced plastic packaging in India by eliminating non-recyclable plastic packaging from its fulfillment centers and introducing a paper-based lightweight mailer that it reports has been used 100 million times. Amazon has already shown it can rapidly reduce plastic packaging on a very large scale.
Amazon has a moral responsibility to stop this flow of plastic into our oceans. And in Canada, with the longest coastline in the world touching three oceans, we believe that we have a national and global responsibility to end the plastic disaster.
This holiday season help us give our oceans and marine life a fighting chance. Tell Amazon you want plastic-free options at check-out. Find out more here: oceana.org/plastics.