Amazon's plastic packaging waste in 2021 increased 18 percent to 709 million pounds, according to a new report from nonprofit advocacy group Oceana.
Citing a peer-reviewed study published in Science in 2020, the group said at least 26 million pounds of this waste will end up polluting oceans and waterways. The specific type of waste, plastic film, is also especially destructive to marine life.
“The science is clear, the type of plastic used by Amazon for its packaging is a threat to the oceans. Customers and shareholders are calling for the sharcompany to act. It’s time for Amazon to, as it has on climate, step up and commit to a global reduction in its use of plastic packaging,” said Matt Littlejohn, Oceana’s senior vice president for strategic initiatives.
The pressure for Amazon to reform its waste practices is not just coming from environmentalists. The majority of shareholders at the company's annual general meeting voted in favor of addressing the waste problem — which included asset manager BlackRock.
Amazon had previously claimed that in 2021 it actually reduced the amount of plastic packaging weight per shipment by over 7 percent, according to a company blog post. While Oceana commended this progress, it said that the data don't account for packages fulfilled by third-party sellers. The group said it asked Amazon to disclose how many of the two million merchants on its platform shipped their packages themselves, but Amazon declined this request.
AP News also tried to get this information but was also denied.
In the meantime, the e-commerce giant admitted more work needs to be done to reduce waste.
"While we are making progress, we’re not satisfied," it stated in a blog post released Tuesday. "We have work to do to continue to reduce packaging, particularly plastic packaging that’s harder to recycle, and we are undertaking a range of initiatives to do so."
The company highlighted several technological innovations that could help with this effort, including the use of machine learning to determine which products can use less packaging.